SAS campaigns against many forms of pollution entering the marine environment but is especially concern about the 31,000 Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO) that discharge raw sewage into rivers and seas all around the UK coast.
If you witness a sewage or any other pollution event, the first thing to do is to contact the Environment Agency (EA) Pollution Hotline on Tel: 0800 80 70 60. This number is the same in Scotland (for SEPA) and Northern Ireland (for NIEA).
The EA act a bit like the ‘green police’ and will go and check it for any suspected water pollution. Once you have reported an incident they MUST investigate it. You’ll need to provide them with all the relevant details, so make a note of the time you saw the pollution as well as where you saw it. If you can take a picture EVEN BETTER!
Make sure you give them a contact number for you and ASK them to call you back when they’ve examined your report to see what action may need taking.
Then contact SAS Pollution Hotline on Tel: 01872 555950. Whilst we are not always able to visit a pollution incident ourselves we want to know about it. It may well be that we have had previous reports of pollution at the same site and by you contacting us we are able to build up a case file, which could be used in securing long term improvements to the site. But remember to register it first with the EA so there is an official record of the event. This gives us much more to work with when pushing for a prosecution or an infrastructure improvement.
As a local resident you might be experiencing sewage pollution incidents in your area on a regular basis and have already established that investment may be required to rectify what may be both an environmental and human health hazard.
You will therefore need to establish where the sewage is being discharged and by whom. It may well be a main outfall pipe (usually discharging some distance offshore) or it could be a CSO. These are sometimes more difficult to locate, discharging into streams near to sewage treatment works or sewage pumping stations. They tend to operate when a holding tank at the sewage treatment works cannot cope with the flows of sewage and wastewater entering the works and so it gets discharged untreated into a watercourse. Whilst the sewage will get diluted the bacterial loads are often very high and could cause illness for those coming into contact with the sewage-polluted water.
Any sewage discharge requires consent to discharge. These are set by the EA (SEPA or NIEA) and limit the amount of sewage (and wastewater) permitted to overflow. Discharge consents are required for anyone wishing to discharge sewage or trade effluent directly into surface water, such as rivers, streams, canals, groundwater or the sea. There are more than 100,000 discharge consents in England and Wales alone. Of these, 30,000 cover continuous sewage and trade effluent discharges, routinely monitored by the Agency. Another 20,000 are for intermittent discharges from storm overflows and the rest are small domestic sewage discharges.
The EA can supply copies of discharge consents for sewage discharges in your area.
You can request these by contacting your local area office on Tel: 08708 506506.You may be told you need to make a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request, however many discharge consents can now be obtained on the Public Registrars section of the Environment Agency site (This Is not a complete list and we would recommend contacting your local EA office.)
By typing in a postcode, town or company name you can bring up a list of Discharge Consent numbers listed for a local radius and then request full details from the EA. By having a copy of any discharge consent and keeping an eye on the discharge concerned you may be able to establish if it is breaching its consent. At this point the consent holder could face prosecution. You will need to build up a rapport with your local Environment Agency case officers but with a bit of persistence it could soon lead to an end to the sewage pollution as the discharge owners are forced to make improvements to meet the existing discharge consent or a tighter version.