The Windrush Against Sewage Pollution group is supporting a legal action against Ofwat which, campaigners say, has unlawfully failed to stop water companies discharging raw sewage into rivers.

The environmental campaign group Wild Justice is seeking a judicial review of the water regulator's failure to monitor and take enforcement action against water firms.

Speaking on behalf of Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP), Ashley Smith said: “WASP and other campaigners and NGOs have revealed shocking failings in regulation, yet reporting them to the regulatory bodies has met with a brick wall, fudged responses or silence.

Oxford Mail:

"An action exposing and challenging a system that is propping up pollution as a profitable activity that threatens all of us has to be in the public interest.”

Wild Justice is raising funds for the case through CrowdJustice.

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The legal action is supported by investigations by WASP, and Wild Justice, which have revealed that Ofwat takes no active steps to monitor and enforce its obligations and even when serious concerns are brought directly to its attention it does not trigger action, the legal case says.

Wild Justice says the failure to act is having a serious impact on watercourses affected by sewage plants which do not conform with the Urban Waste Water Treatment (UWWT) regulations.

They say the regulator has a legal duty under the Water Industry Act 1991 and the UWWT regulations to monitor and enforce water and sewage companies’ actions.

The consequences are extreme, creating and maintaining excessive nutrient levels which are highly detrimental to the health and biodiversity of those watercourses, with wider implications for the environment and human health of freshwater and marine ecosystems.

Anyone whose hobby or profession brings them into contact with potentially infected water – surfers, rowers, anglers and wild swimmers for example – is at risk, they say.

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Wild Justice, led by Dr Mark Avery, Dr Ruth Tingay and Chris Packham CBE, said: “The impact on biodiversity and human health of the ongoing, unregulated release of raw sewage into our waterways is a national scandal.

"It's disgraceful that the regulator is, at best, entirely passive with regard to its statutory obligations to monitor and take enforcement action against it. It's not so much Ofwat, but Ofwhere?”

Carol Day, of Leigh Day solicitors, who represent Wild Justice, said: “Our client is bringing this case because it wants action to be taken to protect our waterways.

Oxford Mail:

"Wild Justice is of the view that had Ofwat fulfilled its statutory duty to ensure sewage treatments works are fit for purpose in the 21st century, the widespread and damaging discharge of untreated sewage into our rivers and seas could have been averted.”

An Ofwat spokesperson said: "While we share Wild Justice's concern with the potential impact of water companies' wastewater activities on the environment, their characterisation and understanding of Ofwat's work is incorrect.

"We drive improved environmental performance from water companies and hold them to account to deliver on their obligations. This includes significant monitoring and information gathering on water companies, and holding them to account through our enforcement powers, our price review process, our annual reporting and more.

"Where companies fall short, we act – over the last five years, for example, we have imposed penalties and payments of over £250 million. In addition, we have a live investigation into wastewater treatment works which is looking at potential non-compliance in all water and wastewater companies."