liquid pouring from a pipe into a river leaving a pale film on the water surface

How to report sewage pollution

Sewage pollution is undoubtedly one of the biggest issues facing our waterways, with contaminated water being discharged across the UK and Ireland. To address this issue, it’s crucial for everyone to report incidents promptly and to the relevant authorities.

Pollution events are often brief but leave a lasting impact on our environment. You don’t need specialised equipment to identify and report sewage spills.

These incidents are often visible or noticeable by smell. By reporting pollution, you play a vital role in fighting for wild, healthy, and natural rivers.

How to Report

Step 1: Spotting Pollution

Keep an eye out for indicators such as:

  • Wildlife in distress – such as dead fish or fish gasping for air
  • Unpleasant odours
  • Discoloured water – remember sewage is rarely brown, it is usually grey or black
  • The presence of sewer pipes.
  • Sewage-related litter – such as sanitary items, wet wipes, tissue paper
  • Sewage fungus – can indicate pollution even when it is not currently flowing

These cues can all help to identify effluent being discharged into our waterways.

Step 2: Gather Information

Make a note of the date, time, and precise location. An accurate grid reference is ideal, however a postcode should be sufficient.

Don’t forget to also capture photos and videos as visual evidence of the incident.

Step 3: Report to Authorities

Report the pollution to the relevant authorities. These hotlines are open 24-hours:

England, Scotland and Northern Ireland: 0800 80 70 60
Wales: Natural Resources Wales hotline: 0300 065 3000
Ireland: EPA Headquarters: 053 916 0600 / Lo-Call Number: 1890 33 55 99

When reporting, you will be connected to a national call centre. Make sure you have the essential details to hand. While anonymous reports are accepted, named reports carry more weight, and being able to provide visual evidence will help ensure the incident is delt with.

Take Further Action

Contaminated water and effluent are discharged into our rivers and waterways on daily basis, and your reports are essential to combating this problem.

Write to your MP
You can also contact your elected representatives. You can write to them directly and demand action. Make it known that these issues are important to you and request that they follow up on these incidents both with the authority you reported it to and the local water company. It is their job to represent you.

Contact your local Rivers Trust
You can also find your local Rivers Trust using our member Trust map and inform them of the situation. With boots on the ground fighting to clean up our rivers, they are the best point of call for local issues.

View our Sewage Map
Visit our sewage map to view where the sewerage network discharged treated sewage and overflows of untreated sewage and storm water into rivers in England and Wales, data from 2019 to 2022 is currently available and the map is updated yearly.

We all have a role in combating the sewage pollution problem, thank you for your diligence and for taking a proactive stand for our rivers.

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