Young woman left fighting for her life after swimming in sewage-filled Pembrokeshire sea

Caitlin was unaware of the spill and was oblivious as she and her mum went for a dip. Credit: Media Wales

The mother of a 22-year-old woman who became seriously ill after unknowingly swimming in sewage-filled sea is calling on others to be aware of the dangers.

Caitlin Edwards contracted E. coli after swimming near the popular Amroth Beach in Pembrokeshire last summer.

It led to her being diagnosed with haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a rare condition that damages the kidneys.

Her mother, Jayne Etherington, said the five-month ordeal was "absolutely horrendous" as she watched her daughter battle the life-threatening condition.

Ms Etherington said she is angry about how untreated sewage was allowed to enter the sea at Wiseman's Bridge, just a few hundred metres from Amroth Beach on 24 August last year.

It was well-reported at the time that storm sewage had been discharged at four popular Welsh beaches, including Wiseman's Bridge and nearby Saundersfoot, with Welsh Water combined storm overflows (CSOs) held responsible.

"We were allowed to believe it was a CSO spill," Ms Etherington said.

"No-one said: 'This is something more serious.'"

Ms Etherington's daughter Caitlin is lucky to be alive after swimming in waters where a sewage spill took place last year. Credit: Media Wales

The Wiseman's Bridge spill was from a private source and nothing to do with Welsh Water, according to a spokesperson for the organisation.

At the time signs were put up on the beach warning people not to swim and both Pembrokeshire County Council and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said they were investigating the incident.

However, Caitlin was unaware of the spill and was oblivious as she and her mum went for a dip. They had made a pact that they would swim together every day before Caitlin headed back to university for the new term.

But after leaving her home in Pembrokeshire and staying in London with her boyfriend, Caitlin started to feel very unwell and experienced severe stomach cramps and diarrhoea.

After five days she checked herself into A&E where she was diagnosed with E. coli and HUS.

"By the time they phoned me she was in resus," Jayne said.

"She'd gone from a happy, healthy vibrant 22-year-old to looking like she was going to die. We didn't know she wasn't. It was horrendous."

The mother and daughter made a pact that they would swim together every day before Caitlin headed back to university. Credit: Media Wales

Welsh Water confirmed that the source of that particular spill was not from one of their assets while the county council said it had placed warning signs on the beach "acting on information received regarding a pollution incident from Natural Resources Wales".

Nicola Mills, environment team leader for NRW, said their investigation into the pollution incident at Wiseman's Bridge concluded "the effluent discharge was due to a private discharge point failure".

She added: "The owners of the private discharge point acted immediately to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Our officers have visited the area since and there have been no further concerns witnessed or reported.

"Around the same time there was also an ongoing CSO discharge therefore it was not possible to pinpoint sole responsibility for the failure of bathing water sampling at Wiseman's Bridge."

"Both Amroth and Wiseman's Bridge were sampled on the same day. Results from those tests showed a failure in water quality at Wiseman's Bridge but not at Amroth," Ms Mills added.

"Every discharge outlet has its own permit limits which are decided on an individual basis by our permitting team."

But it's of little consolation for the mother and daughter.

"That's what can happen and I’m determined that it doesn’t happen to anyone else," Ms Etherington said.

She's asking anyone else who may have felt ill after swimming near Wiseman's Bridge that weekend to get in touch.

She said there were numerous anecdotal reports that other people had been sick around that time.

Caitlin has since made a full recovery and was able to complete her English and Spanish degree despite doctors advising her she might want to defer her final year.

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