Tom Melhuish 5 min read

Ofwat expands its investigation into illegal dumping of sewage into rivers

On 28 June 2022 announced that it has expanded its enforcement case into the illegal dumping of sewage to include South West Water, the sixth water company under investigation.

Regional water companies are responsible for treating sewage produced by households and businesses in their area. In normal circumstances, all sewage is treated at wastewater plants before returning the water safely into reservoirs and rivers.

Ofwat allows water companies to dump sewage into rivers in exceptional equipment failure or heavy rainfall, helping avoid untreated wastewater backing up into properties.

Ofwat opened its investigation in November 2021 when new monitoring equipment found that water companies were dumping water into rivers on a regular basis. Ofwat has now opened specific enforcement action against six water companies citing heightened concerns that these companies are not complying with their obligations.

The enforcement action being served by the regulation now includes six out of nine English water companies that manage sewer networks. In 2020, there were 400,000 recorded cases of raw sewage being dumped into rivers. The World Wide Fund for Nature conducted a study on British rivers finding that not a single one is safe for swimmers.

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