June 20, 2024

Sewage instead of idyll: Why does poo pollute Britain’s coast?

Untreated sewage regularly flows into water bodies

The fact that dirty water sometimes ends up untreated in lakes, rivers and coastal waters also occurs in Germany. The reason for this is that, especially in large cities, dirty water and rainwater often flow into a single sewer system. To ensure that sewage does not return to homes and streets during heavy rains and that sewage treatment plants do not overflow, the so-called combined sewer overflow reduces the burden on the sewage system. The mixture of untreated sewage and rainwater then flows directly into nature. The problem: In Great Britain, this has become almost the norm. In some cases this happens even when it is not raining.

Basically, according to infrastructure expert and economic policy professor Dieter Helm of the University of Oxford, the combined sewer system is not the crux of the problem. In fact, a separate, comprehensive sewerage system would never be funded – nor would it be necessary, he says in an interview with the German news agency DPA.

Dividends were financed through loans

The problem is that in recent decades there has been little investment in the existing sewerage system despite high demand and a growing population. The reason for this, according to Helm, is a colossal failure on the part of the supervisory authorities: the water utilities that were privatized at the end of the 1980s were not prevented from diligently distributing profits to their shareholders instead of investing, even with money. That came from loans.

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