Across the UK, anger surrounding the state of our rivers
and beaches continues to grow amid recurring reports of hazardous sewage spilling
into our waterways at near unprecedented rates. It comes as over 384,000 discharges
of both treated sewage and untreated sewage overflows were recorded in England
and Wales throughout 2022. A problem caused primarily by a lack of system maintenance and chronic
underinvestment in the nation’s sewage network. In real terms, spending on
wastewater infrastructure has fallen from an average of £3 billion in the 1990s
to roughly £2.7 billion today, despite a population increase of 16% over the
past two decades. The result is a sewerage system that is frequently overwhelmed causing raw
effluent to be routinely discharged through sewer overflow pipes (pipes that
were originally designed to be used during periods of heavy rain only).
The root cause of sewage spills can be attributed to a
number of critical factors, including, a lack of sufficient capacity across the
network, infrastructure damage and system failure, heavy or continued rainfall,
and blockages within sewers and drains. It is believed that blockages account
for around 80% of all sewer flooding incidents in the UK each year, resulting
in the flooding of over 5,000 properties annually. Furthermore, approximately 370,000 sewer blockages are reported every year in
the UK, and up to 75% of these are understood to be directly caused by
substances collectively referred to as “fat, oil, and grease”, otherwise
known as FOG.
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