Rivers of Shame

The Times reports: It says a great deal for British pluck that the sport of wild swimming has become so popular of late. Or indeed that angling and rowing remain widely enjoyed pastimes.

These choices ought not to involve individuals having to make a risk assessment before they participate. Yet thanks to the disgraceful state of Britain’s so-called fresh water courses, those whose preferred leisure activities take place in or on or near a lake or a river are forced to weigh any benefit against any potential damage to their health before pursuing their hobby.

The blame for this situation lies largely with the water companies. Charged with keeping a precious resource clean, these monopoly utilities have instead consistently contrived to muddy the waters, suffering little or no punishment for so doing. Although “muddy” is putting it kindly, given that when untreated sewage is discharged, it contains not only lots of you-know-what, but also sanitary products, condoms and other solid objects.

The nine English water companies owned up last year to discharging raw sewage on more than 200,000 occasions.

The fact is that the water companies are getting away with pumping raw sewage into our rivers because they find it convenient and the penalties are too lenient.

In 2017 Thames Water was fined £20 million for its illegal release of 1.9 billion litres of untreated sewage into the Thames.

That remains a record amount. It is not, however, a sufficient deterrent. In the financial year ending this March the company posted an operational profit of £513.4 million.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that polluters have calculated that coughing up the occasional derisory fine is cheaper than compliance. More...

Discover if your river is fit to swim in...

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Take a trip back in time! Discover just how many official ASA recommended outdoor swimming facility's were available to a nation keen to take the plunge back in 1912...

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