Brits may have been swimming in raw sewage to cool off during 33C heat wave

Campaigners are drawing attention to the raw sewage in lakes and rivers that many Brits are using to cool off during the summer heatwave.

Wild swimming experts are telling brits overwhelmed by the heat to avoid rivers that are used by water companies to pump sewage into the sea.

Though permission for water companies to do this is restricted to periods in which heavy rain may overwhelm the network, data suggests this happens more often than we think.

Last year raw sewage was pumped into English waters on 400,000 different occasions.

Christine Colvin of the Rivers Trust, an organisation devoted to cleaner rivers, urged those in search of a refreshing swim to check the location thoroughly before bathing.

She said: "Really have your wits about you.

"You can see if there's physical debris in the river – like wet wipes or God forbid, sanitary pads – then it's a pretty clear indication that things are not good."

The outflow process that allows water utilities to stop sewage from backing up into streets is thought to be caused by climate change and the increased frequency of extreme weather events.

The environment agency has also suggested that sewage releases could be cut by reducing the amount of wet wipes we dispose in the toilet which make up at least 90% of the material causing sewers to block.

CEO of the charity Surfers Against Sewage, Hugo Tagholm, told the i of an expereince while surfing on the Cornish coast: "We were paddling for about 15 minutes with a group of people, and suddenly we found ourselves in a sewage slick and we could see the sewage outfall actually spilling sewage into the ocean.

"I've been around sewage enough times to know what it was. It was quite disgusting."

Many, like Hugo, are campaigning to restrict the frequency of sewage outflow which not only harms Brits in the summertime, but endangers wildlife and the balance of ecosystems all year round.

Paul Jennings, Chairman of the River Chess Association, said there is a direct correlation between sewage discharge and the falling numbers of trout, snails, mayfly and many more species.

He said: "Once you affect the invertebrates in a river, you change the whole balance of ecology."

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