Pollution warnings at Warleigh Weir as sewage discharged into river after heavy rainfall

  • Watch Victoria Davies' report

Swimmers are being warned to stay out of Warleigh Weir as sewage has been flowing into the water following heavy rainfall.

Sewage processing plants are often not big enough to contain rainfall during storms, meaning the excess is discharged directly into rivers to avoid it overflowing into streets and homes.

It means the water at the weir can be dangerous to people swimming, as sewage contains the E.coli bacteria which can make people extremely ill.

This latest incident has renewed calls for water companies to do more to avoid discharging raw sewage into waterways.

The founder of the Warleigh Weir project, Johnny Palmer, said: "I would like to see water companies invest some of their profits into making their sewage processing plants large enough so that we don't get raw sewage in our rivers".

The river level has decreased which increases the concentration of pollutants in the river

The Warleigh Weir Project has been campaigning against the pumping of raw sewage into rivers along with other groups across the country.

Due to the hot weather, the amount of water in the lakes and rivers is also decreasing resulting in the pollutants becoming more concentrated.

A spokesperson from the Rivers Trust said: "The main issue is pollution from agriculture, sewage and urban areas which get exacerbated in times like now where we've got very little rainfall and river levels are low.

"All those pollutants get concentrated and we're seeing some of the problems here at Warleigh and elsewhere across the West Country.

"Rivers are getting choked by weeds and the pollutants are having much more of an impact".

Back in April, the Warleigh Weir project along with the Surfers Against Sewage campaign group took part in a national day of action on water quality to protest against Wessex Water.

Today (August 17), a Wessex Water spokesperson said: "Storm overflows are sometimes used during heavy rainstorms to protect properties and roads from sewer flooding by releasing stormwater into watercourses.

“While it’s extremely rare for storm overflows to cause a sewage pollution incident, we’re committed to completely eliminating the discharge of any untreated sewage.

"Every month we’re investing £3 million to reduce storm overflows, starting with those which discharge most frequently or which have any environmental impact.”