A report from lawyers Leigh Day and the Guardian have covered the news that Wild Justice files legal claim over Ofwat’s failure to step in and prevent discharges of untreated sewage into rivers.

Wild Justice has stepped up a legal campaign against Ofwat for failing to ensure sewage treatment plants are fit for purpose with an application for judicial review at the high court.

If permission for judicial review is granted, Ofwat will have to defend its failure to regulate the status of sewage plants in a judicial review hearing before a high court judge later this year.

The legal action is supported by investigations by Wild Justice and Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (Wasp), which used environmental information requests and freedom of information laws to reveal, according to the legal action, that Ofwat takes no active steps to monitor and enforce its legal obligations to reduce and stop sewage discharges. When serious concerns are brought directly to its attention, the legal case says, Ofwat has not taken action.

Wild Justice says the failure to act is having a serious impact on watercourses affected by sewage plants that do not conform with the urban waste water treatment (UWWT) regulations and regularly empty raw sewage into freshwater. They say the regulator has a legal duty under the Water Industry Act 1991 and the UWWT regulations to monitor and enforce water and sewage companies’ actions.

The consequences are extreme, creating and maintaining excessive nutrient levels that are highly detrimental to the health and biodiversity of those watercourses, with wider implications for the environment and human health of freshwater and marine ecosystems, they say.

They say anyone whose hobby or profession brings them into contact with potentially infected water – surfers, rowers, anglers and wild swimmers for example – is at risk.

Raw sewage was discharged into rivers 375,000 times over more than 2.7m hours in 2021, according to Environment Agency data.

Further information can be read here on the Leigh Day website and the news report in the Guardian.

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