‘Do not swim’ warning issued at 8 UK beaches as raw sewage spills into sea

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United Utilities said it is a “very unusual incident” and “urgent repair work”  is being carried out which could “take some time”

A “do not swim” warning has been issued across a swathe of popular beaches across the UK’s Fylde coast after raw sewage has been pumped into the sea.

The pollution “incident” came after a pipe burst following a storm on Monday (12 June), resulting in untreated sewage, mixed with rainwater, being released into the sea, United Utilities said.

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The warning was issued last week and the beaches still have sewage pollution alerts in place today (Wednesday 21 June), according to environmental group Surfers Against Sewage interactive map.

Feargal Sharkey, former lead singer of the Undertones and anti-sewage campaigner, wrote on Twitter: “If you’re thinking about going for a picnic on the beach around Blackpool today I might not be in too much of a hurry.”

Members of the public are now being urged to not to swim or bathe in the sea at beaches along this coast until further notice, and to keep animals out of the water. The affected beaches include:

  • Bispham
  • Blackpool Central
  • Blackpool North
  • Blackpool South
  • Cleveleys beach
  • Fleetwood
  • St Annes
  • St Annes North

In a tweet, United Utilities said: “A pollution incident has occurred which is affecting some beaches across the Fylde Coast. United Utilities have announced that during last night’s storm untreated sewage, mixed with rainwater, was released into the sea, due to a burst pipe.

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“Please be advised to not swim or bathe in the water at Blackpool Central, Bispham, North and South beaches until further notice. More information can be found from United Utilities. It is also advised that animals are also kept out of the water.”

The Environment Agency on Twitter said it is “aware of the incident” and its teams have been assessing the impact.

The agency advised the public to check Swimfo for the latest bathing water information. The website gives information on all 424 designated bathing water sites and any forecasted drops in water quality.

‘Do not swim’ warning at 8 UK beaches as raw sewage spills into sea. (Photo: Getty Images) ‘Do not swim’ warning at 8 UK beaches as raw sewage spills into sea. (Photo: Getty Images)
‘Do not swim’ warning at 8 UK beaches as raw sewage spills into sea. (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

United Utilities said “urgent repair work” is currently being carried out on the burst pipe which “is expected to take some time”.

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In a statement, the water firm added: “The treatment works is currently running at a reduced rate while engineers plan and carry out the repair work to the pipe which lies nine metres underground.

“Due to the location and complexity of the repair and to ensure the work is carried out safely, this is expected to take some time while engineers install temporary pumps and 2,000 metres of overland pipework.”

United Utilities said the storm on Monday saw “nearly 40mm of rain fall in around two hours” which caused the system to temporarily reach its full capacity at sites in Blackpool.

Mark Garth, Wastewater Director, at United Utilities, said this is a “very unusual incident” and “our teams are working around the clock to minimise any impact on the environment.”

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He said the burst pipe is “deep underground making the repair complex and challenging” and the water company is working “closely with the Environment Agency and local councils”.

United Utilities confirmed Fleetwood Marsh Nature Reserve is closed to the public until further notice while construction of a temporary overland pipework goes ahead.

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