England’s water and sewage companies have announced a major transformation programme to reduce sewage spills into rivers and seas.
The vow to clean up follows public anger over pollution in seas and rivers and the issuance of a joint apology by water companies for their failure to address sewage spills into the nation’s water bodies.
Earlier this year, the UK’s Environment Agency released data that showed 301,091 sewage spills or an average of 824 a day in 2022 across the country.
As part of the programme, the industry intends to invest £10bn ($12.4m) on storm overflows. This investment is threefold higher than the £3.1bn investment made between 2020-25.
Furthermore, a new national environmental hub containing data on all 15,000 spills in the country is expected to boost transparency that will allow the public to hold these businesses accountable for any future mishaps.
Upon receiving approvals from authorities, companies anticipate that this initial wave of investment will reduce sewage spills by approximately 140,000 per year by 2030, when compared to the level in 2020. The programme will begin by implementing a significant renovation plan spanning 350,000 miles of sewer.
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Later this year, an extensive national ‘overflows plan’ will be released, which will include each company’s individual approach to improving the overflows. The plan will also elaborate on when improvements can be expected, how these improvements will be provided, and estimated results.
Water and sewage companies will support 100 communities committed to preserving rivers and other outdoor water bodies used for swimming and recreation.
Water UK’s chair Ruth Kelly said: “The message from the water and sewage industry today is clear: we are sorry. More should have been done to address the issue of spillages sooner and the public is right to be upset about the current quality of our rivers and beaches.
“We have listened and have an unprecedented plan to start to put it right. This problem cannot be fixed overnight, but we are determined to do everything we can to transform our rivers and seas in the way we all want to see.”