An Environment Agency boss urged Britons to not risk swimming in the country’s waterways amid lingering concern over sewage being deposited into them.
John Leyland, the agency’s chief of staff, insisted rivers were not there for human bathing and were instead for the wildlife and the fish that live within them.
It comes after data released by the EA agency showed that water companies discharged raw sewage into England’s waterways and seas more than 400,000 times last year.
Environmental campaigners have also raised concerns that only 14 per cent of rivers in England are rated in good ecological health and none met chemical standards.
John Leyland spoke during an ITV documentary, looking at water quality following a spike in interest in wild swimming during th pandemic.
During the programme, reporter Joe Crowley asked John Leyland if people should be wild swimming in rivers with evidence of raw sewage being deposited into them.
Mr John Leyland said that the rivers that they have weren’t there for human swimming, and that they were there for the wildlife and the fish that live within them, and that the prevailing regulations require them to try and get the water to a health that’s suitable for that.
And he said that he thought that if they wanted to start talking about water that’s suitable for human health then that was a great discussion to have, but that it was a much bigger conversation.
Questioned if it was a personal risk, he said that he didn’t swim in rivers and he would just urge everybody to use the data and information, and wouldn’t recommend anyone to take that risk.
Campaigners for cleaner waters believe the deterioration in UK rivers was due to raw sewage being deposited there and water companies self-monitoring this since 2010.
The firms carry out their own pollution testing and are expected by the EA, which is the regulator, to report how frequently they’re dumping untreated sewage, but pressure groups say the EA’s enforcement budget has been cut by about two thirds since self-monitoring was drawn into action, meaning monitoring was inadequate.
Guy Linley-Adams, the solicitor for the Salmon and Trout Conservation, said there was no incentive for some to report, adding that it was only human nature and that if you’re a sewage works manager in a small town and your boss in central office is giving you a hard time because the works have been having a bit of a problem and you get the opportunity to tweak it to make it look a tad better, what are you going to do?
The lack of public swimming places in England is a disgrace. Every possible body of water is either fenced off by the council, or too contaminated to swim in, and the Government must sort this problem out.
Government in generations past genuinely cared about the environment, but not this lot, and they don’t want the shareholders to lose their profits, and no doubt Joe Public will be expected to fund the cost of putting it all right by paying higher bills.
The real disgrace is that while water companies have been hoovering up enormous profits to finance shareholder dividend infrastructure investment, which has been compromised, raw sewage is being poured into our waterways and seas around the United Kingdom.