Every year brave Brits plunge into the icy waters along the English coast during the festive period, with many doing so in a bid to raise money for charity. With a number of dips having been canceled in the past few years due to Covid and extreme weather conditions, revellers were raring to take the plunge this year. However, the Liberal Democrats have warned that a number of arranged swims this year could be ruined by water companies who have dumped sewage into the waterways.
Alongside this, the number of people who enjoy wild swimming has increased which may see a larger number of people choosing to exercise at local lakes and beaches.
On Christmas Day last year, Thames Water dumped sewage into local waterways which saw outdoor swimmers in Oxfordshire forced to cancel their Boxing Day river swim.
Data revealed by the Liberal Democrats show that last year, Lake Windermere had 1,459 hours of sewage discharged into it.
One spill lasted 82 hours, however the National Trust is set to host a swim at the lake on Boxing Day, potentially putting swimmers at risk.
Similarly, a festive dip is set for Eastbourne beach on Boxing Day where 250 hours of sewage was dumped into the sea by Southern Water, one discharge took 65 hours.
Just last year, Porthcawl in Wales saw 660 hours-worth of sewage dumped into it despite the coastline hosting a Christmas Day swim for over five decades.
Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, an environmental spokesperson, said: “This is a real Christmas party pooper.
“Most people are dreaming of a white Christmas, not a brown one.”
On New Year’s Day Paignton Beach in Devon will be taken over for a community swim event.
However, in 2021 South West Water dumped sewage at the beach 16 times and more sewage has been reported in the region over the past year.
The revelations by the Liberal Democrats also showed that last year sewage was dumped on Blue Flag beaches 1,700 times, lasting 15,000 hours.
Blue Flag certification is a recognized award by the Foundation for Environmental Education showing that a beach meets a number of strict environmental, safety, education and accessibility criteria.
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Mr Farron continued: “It’s disgusting enough that our summer swims are spoiled by sewage, but we cannot forget that the water companies, aided by this Conservative government, have stolen our Christmas dips too.
“The public are fed up with the Government burying their heads in the sand on the sewage crisis.
“Conservative MPs shamefully voted against a ban on sewage discharges and now swimmers and wildlife are left to pay the price.”
He added: “All while water company CEOs pay themselves multi-million-pound bonuses.
“The whole thing stinks. This has to be the last Christmas where families are left to swim in sewage.”
The Lib Dems are demanding an end to the discharge of sewage into Britain’s rivers, lakes, and beaches by water companies.
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The party has also called for the implementation of a sewage tax on water company profits to pay for the clean-up efforts.
A spokesperson from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told the Telegraph: “We have been clear that water companies cannot profit from environmental damage.
“Money from fines handed out to water company polluters will be reinvested in schemes that benefit our natural environment.
“We are also requiring water companies to deliver the largest infrastructure program in their history to tackle storm sewage discharges – a £56 billion capital investment over 25 years.
“Through increased monitoring and transparency, driven by the government, the regulators have launched the largest criminal and civil investigations into water company sewage treatment works ever.
“Regulators will use all options for robust enforcement action and will continue to prioritize action to protect bathing waters and high-priority nature sites.”