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Latest 27 March 2023

NEW: Water firms have dumped raw sewage into English waterways for over 7 million hours since 2020

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New figures show that, in 2022 alone, raw sewage was dumped into rivers and coastal areas across England 300,953 times by private water companies – an equivalent of 824 spills every single day for a total of 1.7 million hours.

The Environment Agency is due to publish the latest data on sewage dumping in full this Friday. But we now know that between 2020 and 2022, water companies have been responsible for over 1 million sewage spills from storm overflows into English rivers and seas.

Nine companies were responsible for a scandalous 7.4 million hours of sewage spills during this period. But the overall figure could be a lot higher. The Sunday Times has obtained data revealing that 600 sites still remain unmonitored for sewage pollution from storm overflows.

Last year, private water companies declared operating profits of £2.3 billion and paid out an eye-watering £900 million in dividends – according to their annual reports.

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United Utilities reported operating profits of £610 million in 2022 and paid out dividends of £296 million. Anglian Water has paid out an extraordinary £4.6 billion in dividends in the last 10 years.

We are now in a situation where a deluge of untreated sewage is being discharged by water companies into our rivers and along our coastlines, but the Government is failing to face up to the scale and urgency of the problem.

The Government’s current Storm Overflows Discharges Reduction Plan gives water companies until 2050 to take action to reduce sewage discharges through storm overflows. But even beyond 2050, the Government’s plan fails to protect the majority of our coastal waters and also fails to include hundreds of other storm overflows.

We think that allowing this level of environmental vandalism to continue for decades to come is unconscionable. 

This is why we have launched a legal challenge, alongside Marine Conservation Society, Richard Haward’s Oysters and surfer and activist Hugo Tagholm, which seeks to compel the Government to make the plan fit for purpose. We want to see tougher targets imposed upon water companies and a much more complete plan to clean up our waters.

With the High Court hearing ahead of us, we need your help. Please join us in our campaign to protect our coastlines, rivers and waterways for generations to come by supporting this legal challenge here.