February Sewage Pollution in South West England

At least we’ve endured no named storms for a few days! However, this evening we have experienced a band of rain crossing the West Country:

Needless to say when I checked South West Water’s WaterFit Live map shortly before midnight it was already flagging up numerous sewage pollution incidents around the coasts of Devon and Cornwall:

Starting with the surfing beaches close to us here in West Devon, there are ongoing “spills” at Widemouth Bay:

and Lynmouth:

Meanwhile at Westward Ho! the Northam finescreen pumping station seems to be performing it’s usual trick of repeated short bursts of activity:

However, since South West Water’s map only shows the most recent activation it’s impossible to be sure about that without manually refreshing the web page every few minutes!

[Update – February 7th]

As a new day dawns there are over 20 beaches around the Devon & Cornwall coasts suffering from sewage pollution yet again:

Moving further south and west from there are ongoing “spills” at Harlyn Bay:

Seaton in Cornwall:

and Plymouth amongst many others:

[Update – February 7th PM]

More rain this evening has caused another burst of sewage pollution incidents, several affecting rivers along the south coast:

Most pollution incidents on our rivers are not reported in “near real time” by South West Water. However these are because they are deemed to also affect bathing beaches. Of course nobody ever bathes in a river!

Several of these have affected the River Plym near Plymouth in Devon:

plus Dowr an Wynyk (River Vinnick) in Kernow:

and Dowr Seythyn (River Seaton) once again:

[Update – Late on February 7th]

This evening there is a strange discrepancy between today’s Environment Agency’s sewage pollution warning for Westward Ho! beach:

and the information displayed on South West Water’s WaterFit Live equivalent page:

Elsewhere there are ongoing sewage spills at Harlyn:

and at Porthkidney Beach near St. Ives:

There are also still several ongoing CSO monitor activations in Plymouth:

[Update – February 8th]

This morning there is a Met Office yellow weather warning for heavy rain in place until 6 AM tomorrow:

The Environment Agency has also issued a flood alert for the Upper River Tamar catchment area:

By now it hopefully goes without saying that South West Water’s WaterFit Live map of sewage pollution is now covered in metaphorical red flags.

Earlier today South West Water replied to my enquiry about the EA warning above. It seems significant quantities of “partially treated effluent” were released into the Taw/Torridge Estuary near Barnstaple yesterday:

We experienced a loss of power at Ashford sewage treatment works yesterday between 10:00am and 16:15pm which impacted the sewage treatment process and resulted in a discharge of partially treated effluent.

We have been in contact with EA and are working closely with them to keep them updated. Water quality samples have been taken from the estuary and at nearby beaches. This issue is now resolved and the treatment works are functioning as normal.

Map from The Rivers Trust – https://theriverstrust.org/sewage-map

In other local news there is yet another sewage spill ongoing at Widemouth Bay:

[Update – 6 PM on February 8th]

The forecast rain duly drenched the West Country earlier this afternoon:

By my count this evening there are now 47 metaphorical red flags around the coast of Devon and Cornwall on the Surfers Against Sewage pollution map:

Amongst today’s spills at surfing beaches in our neck of the woods are Environment Agency warnings against entering the water at Summerleaze and Crooklets beaches in Bude:

There are also ongoing spills at Widemouth Bay:

Westward Ho!:

and Lynmouth:

There are now many more CSO activations along the south coast too. Perhaps we should begin with the red tide that has engulfed Exmouth today?

[Update – February 9th]

By my count this morning there are now 56 incidents flagged around the coasts of Devon & Cornwall on the Surfers Against Sewage pollution map:

Multi-hour “spills” are ongoing at several surfing beaches in our corner of the West Country, including Polzeath:


and Widemouth Bay once again:

South West Water have explained to me that “the PIRTs at Bude were related to a National Grid power outage at Castle SPST which was self- reported to the EA”:

Map from The Rivers Trust – https://theriverstrust.org/sewage-map

[Update – February 10th]

Some of the recent sewage spills have disappeared from the WaterFit Live map, since at least 12 hours have elapsed since they occurred:

However numerous others are still ongoing, including those affecting the River Plym:

The River Vinnick:

and the River Seaton:

Multi-day pollution incidents along the coast are still ongoing at Exmouth:


and Harlyn Bay:

[Update – February 13th]

I suspect that this looks worse than it is. However, according to the Environment Agency this morning:

Whereas according to South West Water quite some time ago:

On the other hand the situation in Plymouth is almost certainly as bad as it looks:

[Update – February 19th]

Our closest beaches are clear this morning:

with the exception of Westward Ho!

On the south coast the advice against bathing at Exmouth continues for another day:

There is also now an Environment Agency warning against bathing due to sewage pollution at Seaton in Cornwall:

[Update – February 22nd]

Here is today’s tale of woe from WaterFit Live:

There are currently Environment Agency warnings against bathing due to sewage pollution in place at Par Sands:

and at Portwrinkle:

[Update – February 24th]

South West Water’s WaterFit Live map is still full to overflowing with metaphorical red flags this morning:

Widemouth Bay has been affected by sewage pollution yet again today:

Westward Ho! has been subject to a series of short bursts of pollution once again. Here’s the most recent:

By way of a contrast, further north the residents of Woolacombe have now had to put up with continuous pollution for over a week:

[Update – February 25th]

However, the Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for heavy rain today, so the number of orange pushpins on the map will almost certainly increase throughout the day:

This morning the Environment Agency has issued a warning against bathing at Perranporth due to sewage pollution:

Sadly it comes as no surprise to report that the sewage pollution flood gates have opened yet again at Widemouth Bay:

To be continued…

Jim Hunt

I've been programming computers since the late 60s. In those days they didn't have computers in schools, so we had to build our own. What can I program next? Will I have to build it first?

Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | SoundCloud | Wikipedia

Leave a Reply

The maximum upload file size: 2 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded.