During this year’s bathing season Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) have sent out 37,056 free, real time text alerts when raw sewage has been discharged from Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). Although most of the beaches in SAS’s Sewage Alert Service are Blue Flag beaches there were still an alarming amount of sewage spills, with Bournemouth Pier registering 16 spills in just 20 weeks over the summer. The Sewage Alert Service lets beach users make informed decisions about how, when and where they use the sea. 1,841 beach users signed up for SAS’s free text around the UK and the most popular beach, Godrevy in St Ives Bay had over 500 people. But for the moment, only South West Water are continuing to provide real time warnings to SAS so SAS can inform the public when raw sewage is discharging.
CSOs should be designed to discharge sewage only under extreme weather conditions, and for a maximum of 3 times a bathing season (May 15th – September 30th). However 9 of the beaches featured in SAS’s Sewage Alert Service had at least 9 raw sewage discharges and 2 beaches register 16 discharges.
The most frequent raw sewage discharges were at:
- 16 Bournemouth Pier
- 16 Poole Shore Road
- 13 Bude Summerleaze
- 13 Meadfoot
- 13 Saltburn
- 13 Christchurch Mudeford Sandbanks
- 10 Clevedon
- 9 Salcombe South Sands
- 9 Crantock
- 8 Swanage Central
SAS have been concerned about the tens of thousands of CSOs that discharge raw sewage into the seas around the UK after periods of rain. After successfully exposing this problem, SAS developed a new system that uses existing technology to deliver new and valuable real time sewage information, texted for free to your mobile phone. SAS worked tirelessly to persuade water companies to voluntarily share information on CSO discharges and convince these water companies and local authorities of the value added to resorts and beaches from providing this information. Early this year SAS research showed over 95% of beach users wanted to be told when sewage was discharged at their beach.
As well as highlighting important times when sewage is discharged into our beaches the Sewage Alert Service also reinforces good water quality as no news (text) is good news. Beaches like Woolacombe in North Devon and Newgale in Wales didn’t suffer any sewage discharges all bathing season. These beaches should be proud of their performance and promote their clean sewage free bathing season.
The water companies taking part in this year’s SAS’s Sewage Alert Service were:
- South West Water (18 beaches)
- Welsh Water (3 beaches)
- Wessex Water (17 beaches)
- Southern Water (9 beaches)
- Northumbrian Water (1 beach)
South West Water are continuing to provide real time information when their CSOs discharge raw sewage over the winter period and are confident they will double their coverage for 2012 to at least 34 beaches. Welsh Water and Yorkshire Water have both committed to providing SAS with real time information on sewage spills for 2012’s bathing season. SAS are working closely with the water companies all around the UK in the hope they too will share this valuable information with beach users. The Sewage Alert Service is supported by Defra Minister Richard Benyon and SAS are confident that the Sewage Alert Service will see a dramatic increase in the beaches featured in 2012.
Take up of the real time sewage service has been fantastic. 1,854 individual users have signed up to the Sewage Alert Service. And there is an impressive 8,759 subscribers across all beaches (the average user subscribes to 4.75 beaches). What’s astounding is the level of people unsubscribing. Only 15 people unsubscribed, which translates to 0.8%. The majority of these people where holiday makers who no longer needed the texts after their holiday finished and they returned home. This highlights how valuable the users found this information and there has been a lot of disappointment that the Sewage Alert Service will not be available all around the UK over the winter months.
The Environment Agency supported the Sewage Alert Service by setting levels of significance so the public were only alerted when there was a potential health risk. And SAS worked closely with Firetext and Fruitcake Designs to provide the free real time text service and an online map displaying CSO placements and spill update.
A full list of beaches included in the Sewage Alert Service:
- Westward Ho! (Devon)
- Tunnels Beaches (Devon)
- Bigbury-on-Sea North (Devon)
- Woolacombe Village (Devon)
- Breakwater Beach (Torbay)
- Meadfoot (Torbay)
- Oddicombe (Torbay)
- Broadsands (Torbay)
- Paignton Paignton Sands (Torbay)
- Paignton Preston Sands (Torbay)
- Salcombe South Sands (South Hams)
- Blackpool Sands (Devon)
- Dawlish Warren (Teignbridge)
- Bude (Cornwall)
- Crantock (Cornwall)
- Porthleven (Cornwall)
- Godrevy (Cornwall)
- Porthtowan (Cornwall)
- Gyllyngvase (Cornwall)
- Polzeath (Cornwall)
- Bantham (Devon)
- Challaborough (Devon)
- Broadhaven Central (Wales)
- Newgale (Wales)
- Manorbier (Wales)
- Sandown (IoW)
- Ventnor (IoW)
- Shanklin (IoW)
- Hayling Island Beachlands (South coast)
- Bognor Regis East (South Coast)
- Littlehampton Coastguards (South coast)
- Botnay Bay (South East)
- Joss Bay (South East)
- Westbrook Bay (South East)
- Clevedon (Bristol)
- Weston Super Mare
- Burnham Jetty (nr Weston Super Mare)
- Dunster North West (Somerset North coast)
- Blue Anchor West (Somerset North coast)
The public want to know when and where sewage is discharging so they can make informed decisions about using the sea. SAS are proud to be able to delivering this valuable information successfully.
Andy Cummins, SAS Campaign Director
Great work SAS! This service is invaluable in avoiding polluted water, and hopefully illness. But it also highlights just how often CSO are spilling. Will be balloting my MP to support the service. I'd love to see all CSOs covered and the water companies paying for it. Here's hoping.
Richard Green (Sewage Alert Service subscriber)