Boxing Day dip: Sewage in the sea and beaches terrifies swimmers

As they prepare for their customary holiday plunge in the water, swimmers express concern regarding sewage. The annual water quality report by Surfers Against effluent stated that effluent was discharged in Wales for over 600,000 hours in the previous year.

The advocacy organisation is requesting that water providers furnish up-to-date information regarding the location and timing of effluent discharges. According to Welsh Water and Hafren Dyfrdwy, substantial investments are made to enhance water quality.

Additionally, they claim to provide more data than other water companies. However, David Hanham and his wife maintain that their local Gower shoreline is not "safe" for their children due to the fact that their toddler became ill after swimming in the water.

He claims they observed "sludge in the waters" while playing with their son in Brandy Cove.

David stated that his family paddle-boarded through what he believed to be raw sewerage on another occasion. "The water turned brown from its original pure colour." Unmistakably, a slick of effluent."

Gower farmer Robert Morgan stated that although he enjoys weekly swimming in the ocean, he also had some concerns.

Combined sewerage systems utilise the same pipelines that transport rainwater and sewage from kitchens, bathrooms, and toilets to treatment facilities.

In order to prevent system overload, treatment facilities are permitted to release untreated sewage during periods of intense precipitation. It is possible, however, for plants to violate their permits if they discharge an excessive amount of effluent.

Prior to this, Welsh Water acknowledged that it unlawfully discharged untreated effluent from its facilities. Additionally, land-based pesticides, agricultural refuse, and private sewage systems have the potential to contaminate rivers and oceans.

Alun Moseley of Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) stated that he frequently suffered from ear infections and diarrhoea, which he attributed to submerging in contaminated water, despite being a "extremely enthusiastic surfer."

Welsh Water stated that the SAS report disregarded the investments made to enhance water quality in rivers and seas, which contributed to the region having 25% of the United Kingdom's Blue Flag beaches despite having only 15% of the coastline.

It intends to introduce a storm overflow map with near-real-time updates on the operational status of storm overflows in designated bathing waters and certain non-designated waters in 2024.

Although it was accountable for a negligible proportion of river breaches in Wales, Hafren Dyfrdwy, which serves portions of the north-east and mid-Wales, stated that it took its responsibility for river health extremely seriously and was collaborating with others to ensure rivers were as healthy as possible.

The organisation tasked with monitoring water quality, Natural Resources Wales (NRW), stated that although it had witnessed significant progress in recent years, it was still implementing measures to reduce sewage overflows.

"With regard to pollution incidents involving water company performance, our expectations have been crystal clear, and we have advocated for substantial progress and increased funding to mitigate the detrimental effects of sewage overflows on the environment," the statement continued.

Internationally, Wales is renowned for its exceptional beaches and water quality, which is unparalleled in Europe. Maintaining good bathing water quality is crucial for sustaining beneficial outdoor water recreation opportunities, according to the Welsh government.