Every year brave Brits plunge into the icy waters off the English coast over the festive period, many doing so in an attempt to raise money for charity. With many dips canceled in the past few years due to Covid and extreme weather, this year’s fielders were enthusiastic. However, the Liberal Democrats have warned that many organized swims this year could be ruined by water companies dumping sewage into waterways.
Along with this, there has been an increase in the number of wild swimmers, which can see a large number of people exercising at local lakes and beaches.
On Christmas Day last year, Thames Water spilled sewage into local waterways, forcing outdoor swimmers in Oxfordshire to cancel their Boxing Day river swim.
Data revealed by the Liberal Democrats shows that last year, 1,459 hours of sewage was discharged into Lake Windermere.
A spill lasted 82 hours, although the National Trust has organized a swim in the lake on Boxing Day, putting swimmers at risk.
Similarly, a festive dip is set for Eastbourne Beach on Boxing Day, where 250 hours of sewage was dumped into the sea by Southern Waters, a discharge that took 65 hours.
Last year, Porthcawl in Wales was dumped with 660 hours’ worth of sewage, despite having been a Christmas Day swimming beach for more than five decades.
Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, environment spokesman, said: “It’s a real Christmas party.
“Most people dream of a white Christmas, not a brown Christmas.”
Piketon Beach in Devon will be taken over for a community swimming event on New Year’s Day.
However, in 2021, Southwest Water spilled sewage on the coast 16 times and the region has seen more sewage in the past year.
Revelations from the Liberal Democrats showed sewage was dumped 1,700 times on Blue Flag beaches last year, lasting 15,000 hours.
Blue Flag certification is an award recognized by the Foundation for Environmental Education, which shows that a beach meets a number of strict environmental, safety, educational and accessibility criteria.
Mr Farron continued: “It’s disgusting that our summer swims have been spoiled by sewage, but we can’t forget that the water companies have also stolen our Christmas dips with the help of this Conservative government.
“People are fed up with the government burying its head in the sand on the sewage crisis.
“Conservative MPs shamefully voted against a sewage discharge ban, and now swimmers and wildlife are paying the price.”
He added: “Water company CEOs are paying themselves multi-million pound bonuses.
“The whole stinks. This should be the last Christmas where families have to swim in sewage.”
The Lib Dems want water companies to stop dumping sewage into Britain’s rivers, lakes and beaches.
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The party has also insisted on implementing a sewage tax on water company profits to pay for sanitation.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told the Telegraph: “We are clear that water companies cannot profit from environmental damage.
“Money from fines awarded to polluters of water companies will be reinvested in projects that benefit our natural environment.
“We are demanding that water companies deliver the largest infrastructure project in their history to deal with storm sewer discharges – a £56 billion capital investment over 25 years.
“With increased government-driven oversight and transparency, regulators have launched massive criminal and civil investigations into water utility wastewater treatment operations.
“Regulators will use all options for stronger enforcement action, and prioritize measures to protect bathing waters and high-priority natural sites.”
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