Normally, water companies are only allowed to discharge sewage into the sea from ‘storm overflows’ under special circumstances, for example in the event of heavy rain.
This helps to stop the sewage system flooding on land. However, water companies are prohibited from making ‘dry spills’ from sewage overflows when there has been no rainfall.
Surfers Against Sewage claim that Dry spills were rampant throughout 2021, occurring at every beach in Teignbridge at some point in early October. Teignmouth Holcombe saw five separate ‘dry spills’ in 2021 alone, the third highest in the entire country.
Overall, Surfers Against Sewage allege that South West Water conducted over 20 ‘dry spills’ throughout 2021, the second highest in the country.
These findings come after a long summer and autumn of sewage and discontent, with demonstrations against the practice earlier this year.
In response, South West Water said its own data suggests that the spills at Dawlish and Teignmouth ‘actually occurred during wet weather’.
A spokesperson for the water company said: ‘We have been working hard to reduce the impact of storm overflows, reducing spills by 50% on last year, with a 75% reduction in duration, across our 860 miles of coastline. However, we recognise there is more to do.
‘Our largest environmental investment programme in 15 years, WaterFit, is well underway, focused on delivering benefits for customers, communities and the environment.
This year, for the first time, 100% of the classified bathing waters in the South West passed stringent standards, with 98% rated as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, compared to 28% in 1991. We are also delivering improvements to maintain and further improve our region’s excellent bathing water quality all year round.’