Data set to be published by the Environment Agency on Friday is expected to outline the “appalling” number of times sewage pollution was spilled from storm overflows. While the number has drastically fallen in comparison to the previous year, it has been revealed that the number of spills is still at 300,953, equivalent to 824 spills a day.
The number of spills was reduced by almost a fifth in 2022 in comparison to 2021, according to preliminary data seen by The Times.
The amount of time untreated sewage was released into waterways also fell by 34 percent from 2021.
However, it was still at 1.7 million hours.
The broadsheet also revealed that hundreds of locations are still unmonitored, including in the constituency of Thérèse Coffey, the environment secretary, meaning the true number of annual spills could be much higher.
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Storm overflows are “relief valves” designed to stop sewage backing up in homes during heavy rainfall but water activists have fumed about how frequently they are used.
Ash Smith, of the Oxfordshire-based charity Windrush Against Sewage Pollution, said it was “great” the numbers “are down a bit”.
He said: “Is that down to the weather or the water companies? We know they had an easy ride, it was a drought. It’s [still] appalling. It’s way too high”.
Feargal Sharkey, the former Undertones singer and now water activist, said: “It’s time to pull the handle, a full flush, a total restructuring of the industry all the way from No 10 to your local sewage overflow.”
Stuart Colville, director of strategy at industry body Water UK, said: “These results are an important milestone, but leave a lot more to do.”
The amount of sewage pollution being dumped into rivers across England remains unseen at over 600 sites, freedom of information requests show.
However, under a government deadline, all of the nearly 15,000 storm overflows across the nation must have monitoring by the end of the year.
Anglian Water has the lowest percentage of monitoring, with just 86 percent of its 1,552 overflows being monitored.
One unmonitored site is at Halesworth Bridge in Suffolk Coastal, Coffey’s constituency.
A company spokesperson said: “Those overflows that are near more sensitive sites or were more likely to spill were monitored first.”
Amy Slack, campaigns manager at the charity River Action said: “The government has let water companies monitor themselves and pollute behind closed doors for decades while defunding regulators that fail to enforce the law. The result: more than 600 sewage overflows free to pollute our rivers and seas unchecked.”
“Without transparent monitoring and severe penalties, profiteering water companies will continue to put public health and water security at risk.”