CAMPAIGNERS say recent changes to cut down on sewage discharging into rivers are not enough.

The Government recently announced that measures to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows will be put into law.

During wet weather, storm overflows act to prevent sewers becoming overloaded with sewage and rain, and release diluted wastewater into rivers.

However, volunteer group Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP) says storm overflows are already being used more than they should be.

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Ashley Smith, from WASP, said: “The industry and Environment Agency (EA) have been claiming for many years that the overflows only happen in exceptional circumstances to prevent untreated sewage backing up into people’s homes.

“WASP has discovered that many of the spills are lengthy and happen in dry weather or mild rain, and are closely related to the ingress of groundwater which rises after prolonged wet weather and then leaks into broken or ill-fitting sewer joints.

“This has often been used by water companies as an excuse and one which is expensive to address.”

Ashley Smith has led Windrush Against Sewage Pollution since 2016

Ashley Smith has led Windrush Against Sewage Pollution since 2016

A spokesperson for Thames Water said discharges from storm overflows are not acceptable.

They added: “We strongly support the measures to reduce discharges from storm overflows.

“Our view is that discharges of untreated sewage are simply unacceptable, even when they are legally permitted, and we will work with Government, Ofwat and the EA to accelerate work to stop them being necessary.

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“Eliminating sewage discharges is not going to be quick, or easy, or inexpensive and we will need the continued support of our customers and regulators, as well as extensive collaboration with local communities and other stakeholders, to achieve it.

“Our aim will always be to try and do the right thing for our rivers and for the communities who love and value them.”

Chair of the EA, Emma Howard Boyd, said: “I am pleased to see Government accelerating the delivery on its pledge to drive further improvements and reduce the reliance of the water sector on storm overflows.

“While storm overflows play an important role in not overloading our sewers, it is vital that water companies strive to keep their use to an absolute minimum.”