South West Water's testing finds brown sea at Cornish beach caused by 'mud not sewage'

  • Video from Surfers Against Sewage shows the discoloured sea water

A large section of brown water at St Agnes Beach in Cornwall was caused by mud rather than sewage, according to a water firm.

It is the second time in the space of two days that people have spotted brown water spreading into the sea at the popular beauty spot.

Today (2 November) South West Water told ITV News West Country the issue was caused by flows of muddy surface water which had run off from the fields on top of the cliffs following heavy rain.

"The discolouration of the water is being caused by flows of muddy surface water into the stream from the wider catchment, which is piped onto the beach," a spokesperson said.

"The stream, above our storm overflows, was also brown in colour, as a result of mud being washed off nearby agricultural land, following the recent heavy rainfall," they added.

However the company did confirm yesterday (1 November) its storm overflow in St Agnes triggered "briefly" at the weekend, meaning sewage would have mixed with the mud.

“This was a short duration spill and is unlikely to have caused the level of discolouration shown in the video,” the company said.

But the firm now says, after an investigation, the water samples taken from St Agnes Beach show that the water still met its "normal, excellent quality".

The incident follows several pollution warnings which have been issued for Cornwall's beaches earlier in the month.

The alerts, which provide swimmers and beachgoers with information about water quality, followed a few days of heavy rain, which in turn led to sewage being allowed to overflow into rivers and the sea.

In total, 12 beaches in Cornwall received pollution alerts from the St Agnes-based environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage on its water quality app.

Campaigner from the group, Amy Slack, is calling for more to be done about sewage spills affecting Cornwall's beaches.

She said: "We seem to be seeing more and more instances of rainfall and at the slightest sign of rain we see sewage being discharged into rivers and the seas up and down the country.

"Last year alone in 2021 we had over 370,000 sewage discharges into rivers and seas up and down the country - that's 2.7 million hours of sewage being discharged.

"People are pretty sick of seeing sewage pumped into the water. It's stopping them enjoying the seas and rivers around us, which is so important for our mental and physical health."

A spokesperson from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told ITV News West Country South West Water should carry out field testing as well as laboratory analysis, which takes longer.

They added that laboratory data analysing the water has been requested by Defra but not yet processed.