What is it?

Pollution is when substances or debris get into an environment in which it wouldn’t naturally be found. Plastics, carbon dioxide, sewage and oil are all examples of pollutants of the natural environment (air, water, and land).

We’re on a mission to reduce water pollutions across the South West. Especially those caused by our own assets, like broken pipework and storm overflows, which cause raw or screened sewage to enter rivers and the sea. So, if you spot something that doesn’t look or smell right, please let us know. We’ll investigate straight away, and all reports help us to find and fix problems and improve our network.

Our plans for rivers and seas

How to spot a pollution from our wastewater network

If you spot any of these signs while you’re out and about, please tell us, and we’ll look into it straight away.

What might you see?

Here are some signs that there might have been a pollution from our sewers or treatment works:

  • A noticeable sewage smell
  • Watercourse appears grey, cloudy or milky
  • Soap suds or foam in the water
  • Toilet paper, wipes, and sanitary products in the water or surrounding area
  • Sewage solids
  • Bio-beads (in very rare cases!)

Where might you see it and why?

Pipes – rainwater and treated wastewater are discharged harmlessly into the environment through pipes. After heavy rain, discharges may contain an amount of sewage as part of a storm overflow event.

If something has gone wrong, and sewage is being discharged without recent rainfall, you may see some of the things listed above. Please report this to us immediately so we can investigate.  


Manhole covers – if a sewer becomes blocked, sewage can build up and this can start to come up through manhole covers either in people’s gardens or on the street. If you see something like this, please let us know and we will send someone out to fix it as soon as possible.

Rivers and seas – Rivers and seas become polluted with sewage when it’s discharged into them from our assets – we’re working very hard to reduce the number of times this happens. 

Some of the most visible signs of previous discharges are things that contain plastic like wipes and sanitary products which are washed up on the beaches and riverbanks.

Discolouration in the water can also be a sign of a discharge taking place.

Note: On the coast, discolouration is not necessarily sewage, but is caused by natural events like a build-up of marine algae. Check out our guide to help tell the difference. But please tell us about it anyway, so we can check.

The impact of rain


What do I do if I’ve spotted a possible pollution?

Please tell us about what you’ve seen, and we’ll look into it straight away. You can do this by calling 0344 346 2020, or report online below.

Report a suspected pollution

Caring for your sewerage

Check out our handy tips for caring for your sewerage to help reduce the likelihood to pollutions happening in your area.

Caring for your sewerage