NEWLY released figures analysing sewage dumped in council areas have revealed that sewage was dumped into waterways in Cornwall for 142,929 hours in 2023.

The analysis is based on data from the Environment Agency, compiled by the House of Commons Library for the Liberal Democrats, which showed sewage discharges entering local rivers and the ocean on 16,605 separate occasions in 2023.

The data indicates an 81 per cent rise in the duration of sewage spills compared to the previous year.

South West Water and the Conservative MP for North Cornwall Scott Mann responded by stating the actions taken to reduce the issue.

Leigh Frost, deputy group leader for the Liberal Democrats, said: “It is disgusting that South West Water have pumped filthy sewage into our waterways so many times last year. On doorstep after doorstep, people across Cornwall have told me how furious they were at the disgusting levels of pollution that is being dumped in their rivers and waterways - they want to send this government a message.“

Ben Maguire, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for North Cornwall, added: “The Liberal Democrats have led the way for years in campaigning for tougher action. We want to see a tougher water regulator, an end to bonuses for polluting water company bosses and stronger protections for our local environment. Come the General Election, Liberal Democrats will be campaigning hard against this national scandal that has been allowed to take hold while the Conservative government has sat on its hands and looked the other way.”

A spokesperson for South West Water responded to the claims, saying: “We care about our 860m of coastline, our regions 100 per cent bathing water quality, which we have successfully maintained for three consecutive years and protecting the environment now and in the future.

A spokesperson for South West Water added: “We were one of the first water companies to have all our storm overflows monitored meaning we know exactly what is happening, when and where, allowing us to target investment and make changes where it matters most.

“We are serious about tackling storm overflows and change of this scale takes time, ambition, and increased investment — and that is why we are investing £850-million in our region over two years.

“The increase in the storm overflow spills this year can be accounted for by the amount of named storms and weather warnings in 2023. It’s clear we need to redesign our systems, which we are already doing.

“We will also be the first water company to meet the government target of less than 10 spills per overflow, per year — a decade ahead of target.”

Mr Mann said previously in response to similar claims: ”Whilst I agree that the amount of sewage discharged by water companies into our rivers and seas is unacceptable, this is the first government to set out expectations that water companies must take steps to reduce storm overflows significantly. This instruction will now be put on an enhanced legal footing.

“We have increased fines, increased monitoring, and legislated to force water companies to reduce discharges.

“This government is the first in our country’s history to ever take any action on storm overflows. Since 2016 the number of outflows monitored has dramatically increased — from six per cent to 90. That is one of the main reasons why the numbers of incidents are ‘increasing’, despite the fact that our waters are actually getting cleaner. Data from the Environment Agency backs this up. Since 2008 the percentage of bathing waters rated as excellent has increased from 53 per cent to 72 per cent.

“Ultimately, we have an old, combined sewer system in this country, meaning rainwater and sewage both flow into it. It is not a coincidence that discharges happen most often during or after heavy rain. This is because most of our sewage system was built a long time ago when environmental concerns were not a priority, such are the downsides of being a nation that industrialised and built public works relatively early. Going forward, it is expected that new sewers will be built differently where possible.

“If this additional pressure is not discharged, the wastewater — including sewage — will back up into the streets and into people’s homes. This is not hyperbolic; it is a fact.

“Solving this problem will require investing tens, maybe even hundreds of billions of pounds. and I want water companies paying for these upgrades — not taxpayers. That is why we have to reduce storm overflows gradually, not all at once.

“I understand how emotive and important a subject this is. Storm overflows remain, for the time being, a horrible and unfortunate necessity, and I think most residents recognise that. I am committed to seeing the end of combined sewer discharges over time and to placing the obligation for dealing with the issue squarely on the water companies — not Cornish taxpayers.”