SURFERS and sea swimmers have complained of raw sewage filling the seas off the Isle of Wight, following recent heavy rain.

Sewage overflow from storm water was released into the sea, resulting in dirty water in the sea off a number of Isle of Wight beaches.

Campaign group Surfers Against Sewage on the Isle of Wight has called on Southern Water to improve the way it deals with waste water.

The group have posted information about sea water quality on Facebook each day since Friday and every day, readings show sewage pollution in water off a number of Isle of Wight beaches, including Yaverland, Sandown, Shanklin, Ryde, Cowes and Gurnard.

Matt Harwood, of Isle of Wight Surfers Against Sewage, said: "From Friday until today, I understand that there was nearly 39 hours of combined sewer outfalls (CSO) discharges in Sandown alone.

"Whilst this is totally unacceptable during the bathing season, it’s unfortunately not exceptional as Surfers Against Sewage has had an inundation of CSO alerts across the country with the current heavy rain.

"When we surf, sail, swim or play in sea water that has raw sewage in it, we are at risk of gastroenteritis, ear, nose and throat infections, skin infections, and even hepatitis and e-coli."

The reason for sewage being pumped into the sea is due to sewage systems being overloaded after heavy rain. When this happens, treatment plants can not process it all, so are bypassed and raw effluent is released into the environment.

This removes the chance of sewage backing up into homes.

This morning (Tuesday), on the fifth day of compromised water quality, Isle of Wight Surfers Against Sewage posted information showing sea water was still poor in the Sandown Bay area and more sewage had been released into the sea following further heavy rain.

A spokesperson for Southern Water said: "We understand it's a complex and emotive issue when we have to release storm water into the sea.

"During or following rainfall, all water companies, including Southern Water, sometimes release heavily-diluted wastewater into watercourses and coastal waters.

"Such releases from our systems are in place to help protect homes and properties from being flooded with sewage.

"These storm water releases are in line with our strict environmental permits and permitted by the Environment Agency to prevent homes from flooding.

"Southern Water is required to provide the Environment Agency with information about the operation of our assets. We can confirm this was the case following the heavy rainfall on the Isle of Wight at the weekend.

"Bathing water signs, advising against swimming, were already being put in the place across the region by the local authority — as it is standard to advise against bathing following heavy rain due to the impact on water quality from a variety of sources.

"Works have been taking place for a new storm tank in Shanklin, which is part of our Bathing Water Enhancement Programme for ongoing improvement to bathing waters across our region.

"This new storm tank will be crucial in cutting down future releases.

"It's important to note that the water quality on the Isle of Wight has never been better since it has been measured and of the 14 bathing water beaches on the Island, three are classified as good, the rest are excellent."

Surfers Against Sewage have successfully campaigned for improvements in water quality for decades and now 98.5 per cent of the 625 designated bathing waters around the UK are classified as excellent, good or sufficient.

Matt said: "This is a huge leap forward from when we started in 1990, when just 27 per cent of bathing waters could meet the same standards.

"The majority of legislation ensuring bathing waters are kept clean comes from the EU, so we will keep up the pressure so that post-Brexit, the standards continue to be improved. We also want to see the bathing season extended."

The official bathing season runs from May until September, meaning there is no official sampling of water quality during the rest of the year.

In response to the problem of CSOs, Surfers Against Sewage, working with the Environment Agency, created the Safer Seas Service, the UK's first real-time water quality information app.

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