Coming into contact with sewage polluted water when surfing, swimming, diving or undertaking any other recreational watersport is not a pleasant experience and can leave you feeling pretty sick.
Unless sewage is fully treated using either ultra-violet disinfection or microfiltration, the effluent in a sewage outfall pipe will contain high levels of human-derived bacteria and viruses, with the pathogens entering the water column at the discharge point.
It is scientifically acknowledged that pathogens present in water can cause infection in water users. Micro-organisms can enter through the oral route (ingestion), through the eyes, ears and nose or through an open wound. Alarmingly, with certain pathogens it takes only one viral particle to cause an infection. Infections can even be contracted from the aerosol spray blown from the water’s surface as micro-organisms are contained within the minute water droplets that are unsuspectingly inhaled. Pathogens don’t all die off quickly in the marine environment either. Some pathogens can survive for long periods of time, such as, hepatitis A, which can survive for up to 100 days in saltwater!
The most common complaints amongst recreational water users, although painful, are relatively harmless; ear, nose and throat infections, eye and wound infections and gastro-intestinal complaints such as diarrhoea and vomiting. Unfortunately there are other more serious illnesses that can be contracted from sewage contaminated water; bacillary dysentery, pneumonia, botulism, hepatitis A, meningitis and septicaemia. These are just a few but they are all capable of keeping you out of the water for weeks or months at a time.
Scientific research, conducted in conjunction with SAS, has shown that surfers are three times more likely to contract hepatitis A than the general public, but indicated that all water users may be at risk. Those regularly entering the water in the vicinity of an outfall that discharges raw or partially treated sewage are advised to discuss with a doctor, the possibility of having a hepatitis A injection.
If you think you have become ill as a result of coming into contact with polluted water please complete our online Medical Form. By completing this form we can investigate any pollution incidents that might have occurred leading to your illness and lobby for environmental improvements should we discover an underlying issue that’s causing pollution.