On Saturday the 10 Board Challenge surf competition had to be postponed at Godrevy beach in Cornwall after a significant level of sewage was detected in the line up.
Later that day an image showing a brown stream flowing out into the sea was posted online and after being shared widely, ignited fury among viewers, with many taking to South West Waters facebook page to demand answers. Accusations of coperate greed and a disregard for the environment and public health were hurled at the company, which collects the highest water rates in the country and posted profits of over £100 million last year.
However, amidst all the outrage, questions began to be raised as to whether the colour of the water may be being caused by something other than excrement, as was being implied. One particularly vociferous commenter following this line of enquiry accused the organisations posting the image of sensationalism and misleading the public, claiming with certainty that this was merely an image of the red river, which is so coloured because of iron deposits, flowing into the sea. To investigate this claim- that the red water was in fact a red herring- we contacted Surfers Against Sewage. They informed us that whilst the waters discolouration could have been caused by any number of pollutants in the run off, dangerous pathogens and significant levels of untreated human sewage were detected by their systems and for this reason the outflow did indeed pose a threat to bathers health.
In light of this confirmation, we decided to give SWW a call in order to find how why this raw sewage had been allowed to be released into the sea. They told us that the outpouring had been caused by a ‘combined sewer overflow’ which, as a way of protecting homes and gardens from sewage overflow, allows excess sewage to run off into rivers and the sea. In addition they assured us that any actual human waste would have been heavily diluted by other surface water and that Godrevy is currently predicted to meet the ‘Excellent standard’ according to the European Union’s ‘Revised Bathing Water Directive’. In a statement they also apologised for the cancellation of the event and explained that ‘more than £2billion has been spent helping to clean up Devon and Cornwall’s bathing waters’.
Whilst this response will be far from satisfactory for many in the community, thanks to the Surfers Against Sewage Alert Service beach goers and competitors were warned of the incident beforehand preventing them from entering the water and potentially becoming very ill. We hope in the future the sewage infrastructure will be updated to cope with all but the most extreme of weather events, but until then, make sure you download the Sewage alert app, so you too can avoid ever getting dropped in on by any human waste.
Have you ever had any experience of sewage in seas or rivers around you? Comment below or Tweet your pics and stories @ with the hashtag #surfsewage
Photo by http://mikenewman.photography