There are concerns about pollution following bouts of heavy rainfall
People are being asked not to swim at several popular beaches around Plymouth because of concerns about pollution. Alerts have been raised after heavy downpours risk storm overflows to spill over, leaking untreated sewage into the sea.
One of Plymouth’s closest beaches, Wembury, is included on the list. Members of the public are also urged to avoid swimming at Teignmouth, Exmouth, Sidmouth Town, and Beer, reported Devon Live .
A notice for the locations read: “Pollution Risk Warning: Bathing not advised today due to the likelihood of reduced water quality.” There are also warning for 11 beaches in Cornwall.
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The pollution risk is believed to be temporary during the storms this week, but may prove disappointing to tourists and holiday makers in the region. The warnings were published by the Safer Seas and Rivers Service, from Surfers against Sewage, which monitors 400 locations spots on the UK coast for sewage overflow and pollution risks.
The service notified users about the following spots which are at risk from pollution:
Wembury : There is a sewer overflow from Wembury pumping station that discharges 50m upstream of the beach.
Teignmouth : A sewer overflow at the railway station discharges northeast of the beach.
Exmouth : There is a sewer overflow discharging through an outfall to the south east which may affect bathing water quality especially after heavy rainfall.
Sidmouth : Two sewer overflows are located at Sidmouth, one discharges through a long sea outfall some 600m out to sea while the other discharges into the River Sid, just under 400m to the east.
Beer : Three sewer overflows surround Beer with one discharging from Beer car park, one discharging 600m North East and one slightly further to the South
Storm overflow pipes can be triggered by heavy rainfall, to enable a mixture of sewage and rainwater to back up, flooding roads, homes, and businesses. As was seen in Saunton in North Devon at the weekend, it can also wash manure and fertilisers into swimming waters, contaminating them.
South West Water, which provides water and sewerage services in Devon, said in a statement: “The alerts raised at Teignmouth and Exmouth today were from the Environment Agency’s Pollution Risk Forecast (PRF system) which triggers precautionary alerts when weather conditions pose a potential risk to water quality along with other factors, and were not related to SWW activity.”
“Alerts have been raised for Sidmouth and Beer in relation to stormwater overflows which may temporarily impact bathing water quality – these are precautionary and we expect them to be removed soon.”
A South West Water spokesperson said: “In recent days we have seen heavy localised rainfall which followed the prolonged period of hot and dry weather. As a result, the rain hasn’t been able to permeate into the ground and a significant volume has run into our network, which can cause our storm overflows to trigger.”
“We continue to invest in our network to reduce the use of storm overflows as part of our WaterFit plan.”
Surfers Against Sewage said: “Water companies discharged raw sewage into UK waters over 370,000 times in 2021 alone, demonstrating just how important real-time pollution alerts are in helping the public dodge poor water quality and have the cleanest and safest experience possible.”