Report river and water course pollution

We’re committed to protecting the environment.

If you spot anything you think could be a sewage leak or pollution across Devon or Cornwall, please complete the form below or call us on 0344 346 2020 so that we can investigate as a priority.

Is it sewage or Algae?

Marine algae can affect our coastline and shores, especially after windy conditions following warm weather, and is often mistaken for sewage.

Check out our guide to help tell the difference?

Report sewage pollution in Devon and Cornwall

Please fill in the form below or call us on 0344 346 2020.

Signs of sewage pollution in river or stream

  • Sanitary products in the water, on land, on bathing beaches or the coast (toilet paper, tissues, wipes, faecal matter, condoms)
  • Watercourse appears cloudy, milky or foamy
  • Dead or gasping fish
  • A noticeable sewage smell
  • Grey coloured water
  • Sewage solids
  • Soap suds or foam in the water

Reporting a suspected pollution

Please provide as much detail as possible to help us identify the location of the suspected sewage pollution and any other information that will help us deal with the situation as quickly as possible.

Is the discharge in a river / stream?
Is the discharge from a visible pipe?

What is sewage pollution

Sewage pollution is a type of water pollution. It is the occurrence of sewage discharge in rivers, lakes and seas. The main source of sewage pollution is sewage solids in the water, but it can also be caused from tissue paper, wipes and sanitary products entering the water.

These risks are increased at times of heavy rainfall, as stormwater overflows, which protect homes and gardens from sewer flooding, are designed to operate at times of heavy rain. You can find out more about work we are doing to help tackle sewer flooding and the overall management of storm water: Downstream Thinking

Untreated sewage - effects on the environment

A major environmental consequence of sewage pollution is on the aquatic ecosystems, and these effects can be detrimental. Untreated sewage in the waters is decomposed by microorganisms and these microorganisms use oxygen from the water to do this. With less oxygen available in the water when sewage discharge is present in a river or lake, fish and other aquatic life are unable to survive. This is why one sign of sewage pollution in rivers is dead or gasping fish.

Treated sewage can be disposed of as plenty of oxygen is stirred into the waste, so that microorganisms can break the waste down completely, ensuring no harm to aquatic organisms.

It’s also important to prevent sewage pollution to reduce the risks to human health. If it reaches a human water source, a number of diseases can be caused by sewage pollution. This includes hepatitis, E coli, upset stomachs and skin infections.

What causes sewage pollution?

The main cause of sewage pollution is flushing rubbish and things like nappies, cotton buds and even ‘flushable’ wipes down the toilet. This is because it can cause blocked drains, which leads to homes flooding and increases the risk of sewage being released into the rivers.

Another common cause of sewage pollution is cooking fats, such as oils, fats and grease, entering the drains. As cooking fats start to cool, they congeal and harden which causes them to get stuck to the insides of drains and sewers. This can lead to the drains blocking and flooding.

Misconnections can also lead to sewage pollution. This is where the drainage from sinks, washing machines and dishwashers are connected to the wrong sewer network, the surface water sewer, rather than the foul sewer. This common misconnection leads to waterways being polluted.

How can you help?

If you keep just one new year’s resolution this year, let it be to not pour fats, oil or grease down the drain or flush anything other than the 3Ps – pee,  paper and poo – down  the loo.

Learn about ThinkSink here

Learn about LoveYourLoo here

Learn about Misconnections here

How to prevent sewage pollution

It’s important to highlight how water pollution caused by sewage can be reduced, and it’s pretty simple.

What can we do to help water pollution?