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‘Use judgment’: Water firms under fire over sewage dumped at beaches

‘Use judgment’: Water firms under fire over sewage dumped at beaches

Water bosses today came under fire after saying people must “use their judgment” before swimming at beaches where sewage had been dumped.

More than 40 beaches and swimming spots in England and Wales are the subject of pollution warnings today after heavy rain overwhelmed the sewage system following months of little or no rain.

The South West and south coast of England were the worst affected, according to data gathered by environmental campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS).

Swimmers are advised against bathing at seven beaches in Cornwall as a result of storm sewage overflows, with four in Devon and five in Dorset also polluted by the recent downpours.

Environmental campaigner Feargal Sharkey has challeged Southern Water CEO Lawrence Gosden to drink a glass of discharge after the firm said it was mostly rainwater. The former Undertones frontman said he would give £1,000 to charity if he accepted the challenge.

Earlier the company said: “Storm releases were made to protect homes, schools and businesses from flooding. The release is 95-97 per cent rainwater and so should not be described as raw sewage.”

But it faced a further backlash today when spokesperson Katy Taylor told Good Morning Britain: “You need to use your judgment on whether you feel it’s safe to go swimming or not.”

Mr Sharkey responded: “Happy to extend that invite to Katy Taylor SW spokesperson who appeared on @GMB this morning. Same rules, same donation to charity.”

Water bosses have blamed the sewage run-offs on flash floods but Mr Sharkey said: “I’m becoming absolutely fascinated by the idea that water companies and their representatives truly, genuinely believe that people are that gullible or indeed in any way stupid enough to believe any of that old nonsense.”

Nine beaches in Sussex, three on the Isle of Wight and three in Essex were also hit by storm sewage. Elsewhere, there were warnings in place at spots in Lincolnshire, Cumbria, Lancashire and South Wales.