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Lobsters, crabs and oysters drowning in our raw human waste

UK waters home to shellfish had sewage spewed into them nearly 29,000 times last year, according to the latest damning revelations about the ongoing scandal.

The longest event lasted some 5,000 hours – equivalent to around 200 days – new research conducted by the Liberal Democrats suggests.

The party branded lobsters, crabs, clams and oysters the ‘forgotten victims’ of sewage being dumped into seas and rivers around the UK.

The research found sewage was being dumped in waters around England inhabited by shellfish for 207,013 hours in 2021 alone.

South West, Southern Water and Anglian Water were singled out as the utilities companies with the worst records.

It comes amid renewed and intensifying public outrage at sewage leaks, with swimmers potentially at risk amid questions around monitoring from faulty or non-existent equipment.

Tim Farron, the Lib Dems’ environment spokesman, said of the latest concerns: ‘England’s treasured shellfish, our prawn, crayfish, lobsters and crabs, are the forgotten victims of this environmental scandal.

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‘The past week we’ve seen our beaches closed because of these polluting water companies. All the while, they are raking in billions of pounds in profits and forking out eye-watering bonuses to their CEOs. Frankly, the whole thing stinks.

‘Why aren’t Government ministers listening to the public on this? They are ignoring the country’s outrage at this scandal.’

The Lib Dems say the longest 2021 ‘dump event’ – lasting 5,000 hours (more than 6 months) – took place at Morecambe Bay by United Utilities.

But the Lib Dems believe the sewage monitor at the site only worked 15% of the time, suggesting that figure could be much higher.

The Lib Dems have called for a sewage tax on water companies, in order to create a fund aimed at preventing sewage from polluting rivers in future.

Last week, the party claimed that water company bosses have on average been granted a 20% total pay rise in the last year, including bonuses, despite the incidents.

David Jarrad, chief executive of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, said that sewage being pumped into the sea could lead to a ‘lack of trust in consumption of shellfish by the consumer’ and ‘short-term closures of areas where… oysters, mussels, clams are allowed to harvested’.

Warning that sales could be impacted next year, he said: ‘The way we classify our waters around the UK coast, you only need to have two bad readings in the year and you will be downgraded for 12 months the following year.’

Mr Jarrad said sewage could ‘potentially’ impact the breeding of lobsters and crabs, but said shellfish such as oysters and mussels were most at risk.

‘It is the filter feeders that are filtering the water that potentially has bacteria or viruses in it from the sewage, that is where the problem lies,’ he explained.

A spokesman for Water UK, which represents the water companies, said they agreed there is an ‘urgent need for action to tackle the harm caused to the environment by spills from storm overflows and wastewater treatment works’ and are investing in £3 billion of improvements.

The spokesman said: ‘However, companies want to go further, faster and are pushing to be able to spend more, and for processes to be streamlined so that investment can be quickly targeted where it is needed most.

‘Any new investment must be combined with action from Government on wet wipes and urban creep that are increasingly triggering spills.’

The Government wants water companies to take further action to reduce pollution.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said yesterday: ‘We have been clear that the failure of water companies to adequately reduce sewage discharges is completely unacceptable.

‘They have a duty to put their customers before shareholders and we would expect them to take urgent action on this issue or face fines.’

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