Chalk streams hit by 14,000 hours of sewage discharges last year

27 Apr 2023

England’s chalk streams are a source of great national pride. Chalk streams are a unique waterway found primarily in the South of England and Yorkshire. They have been referred to as “England’s rainforest” for their special qualities which allow wildlife and plants to thrive. They are a haven for iconic species like the otter, kingfisher and salmon amongst many others.

Today’s new analysis of Environment Agency data finds they are being polluted with endless amounts of sewage discharges. 

This truly is scandalous. Chalk streams must be protected from these destructive sewage dumps."

Ed Davey

The worst offender is Wessex Water, guilty of 1,013 separate sewage discharges into chalk streams across the West of England.

The worst chalk stream sewage discharge lasted a staggering 2,969 hours in the River Till, a tributary of the Hampshire Avon in Wiltshire by Wessex Water, which is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest as it is home to the Water Crowfoot, providing habitat for fish and snails. 

Meanwhile, Thames Water discharged sewage into the Misbourne in Buckinghamshire for 1,206 hours last year. Southern Water discharged sewage 62 times in the River Meon last year, lasting over 1,000 hours.

The figure for sewage discharges may be much higher than feared. The Liberal Democrats have uncovered a large number of monitors designed to measure sewage overflows are in fact broken. One in five sewage discharges in chalk streams either had a faulty monitor or no monitor installed at all. Shockingly, one in four of Yorkshire Water’s sewage monitors setup in chalk streams was recorded as broken last year. Across the country, one in ten chalk stream sewage monitors were faulty last year according to Environment Agency data. 

Stop Sewage Dumping

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