‘More than 440,000 hours of sewage released’ along England’s coastline in 2023

More than 440,000 hours of sewage was released along England’s coastline in 2023, with thousands of spills taking place close to bathing spots, analysis shows.

Campaign group Friends of the Earth analysed Environment Agency data on sewage overflow outlets to calculate the number and duration of spills directly into the sea and estuaries and near swimming waters.

It found there were 68,481 incidents of sewage released into England’s seas last year, totalling 440,446 hours.

The analysis has been released as comedian Nish Kumar fronts a new film with Friends of the Earth, with a spoof news report on the opening of tourist attraction Sh*t Beach on a seaside town’s sewage-ridden beach.

Friends of the Earth identified all sewage outflows in coastal or estuary waters, or within 500 metres of the sea, to analyse the number and duration of spills into the water.

Nish Kumar holds up clapper board for Sh*t Beach film (
Comedian Nish Kumar fronts a spoof film with Friends of the Earth (Jonathan Salariya/Friends of the Earth/PA)

It identified Cowes Beach on the Isle of Wight as most affected, with nearly 5,000 hours of sewage released near the bathing spot in 2023, followed by Meadfoot in Torbay and Plymouth Hoe West.

The comedian said: “Record-breaking amounts of shit and pollution clogging up our rivers and seas is no joke.

“If we don’t act now, we’ll all be swapping our swimmers for hazmat suits and packing an E. coli testing kit before hitting the great British seaside this summer.

A person in protective yellow clothing sits on a deckchair on a beach
Friends of the Earth warns their spoof could be a taste of things to come (Jonathan Salariya/Friends of the Earth/PA)

“We need to show that we give too much of a shit about our beaches and rivers to let them end up being a national health hazard.”

Kierra Box, nature campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said the film was a spoof but “could be a taste of what’s to come if the Government doesn’t force water companies to clean up their act”.

“We urgently need to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in UK law, to give communities the power to take back their local seas and beaches, to hold polluters to account, and ensure this never happens again,” she urged.

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