UK beach
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Once rated UK's best beach and among the best across Europe, Gorleston Beach attracts visitors for its two-mile stretch of clean and golden sand that curves around the bay. However, in recent times, Gorleston Beach has suffered some of the worst sewage discharge in the region.

Nasty pollution leaving surfers sick

Before the sewage problem, Gorleston Beach used to attract plenty of visitors on a lazy and sunny day, especially surfers, body-boarders, and kite flyers. In fact, Summer Sundays in Gorleston were quite popular, with bands playing in the bandstand surrounded by deckchairs, as visitors and passers-by watched the Sunday yacht race streaming past across the bay.

However, the nasty pollution at Gorleston Beach has seen glaring warnings by Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) - a campaign group keeping checks on water quality across the UK. The region received at least four pollution alerts throughout March this year.

A handful of water sports enthusiasts have suffered due to the sewage discharge into the sea, and the consequences have included people falling sick.

Adam Williams, an outdoor instructor and die-hard water sports lover, barely leaves an opportunity to wear his wetsuit and dive into the North Sea to surf. "There is nothing more levelling. It is an escape from the everyday and the chance to experience Mother Nature at its best," he said.

Williams, who resides close to Gorleston Beach, is head of learning at City College Norwich while he also runs Board Skool, which offers classes in surfing and paddleboarding from Gorleston Beach.

The surfer has claimed that he knows people who have fallen ill as a result.

"When it is bad, it really stinks. No one wants to go in and if you do, it leaves your kit smelly after. It's awful. I know a number of people who have fallen ill from a bacterial infection picked up from being in the water. I'm worried that if the issue is not taken care of it will put people off participating in water sports," Williams told Eastern Daily Press.

Gorleston Beach is situated between two locations that saw some of the highest numbers of sewage discharges in the East Suffolk region last year: Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. As per the data found by an Environment Agency, sewage was discharged for a total of 194 hours in Lowestoft and 67 hours in Great Yarmouth in 2022.

Water companies legally allowed to release waste into sea

While Gorleston's water quality has been rated excellent by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), those numbers supposedly do not take into consideration issues like sewage dumping during high rainfall. And when there is too much rainfall for systems to cope, water companies are legally allowed to release surplus waste into rivers and seas.

A water company operating in East England, Anglian Water, has suggested the above-mentioned measures play a "vital role" in protecting homes and businesses from flooding. However, the company has also admitted that the system needs to change and that is "no longer the right solution when sewers become overloaded with rainwater."

Anglian Water has also claimed that they are currently investing more than £200 million to reduce the sewage discharge into the water bodies and their program is expected to go until 2025.

"As part of our Get River Positive commitment we've promised that storm overflows will not be the reason for unhealthy watercourses in our region by 2030. And we're working towards eliminating all serious pollutions by 2025," an official from Anglian Water said.

However, Williams does not believe the company will be able to get the required results soon enough.

"Tides don't just move in and out, the flow goes up and down the coastline, one way then the other. We are right in the middle between two of the worst spots for sewage so it seems to hang around more. It is a real shame as it is very safe here for water sports in Gorleston and in the summer it is brilliant. But sometimes it is very dirty," added Williams, who also pointed out that the sewage problem could also take a massive toll on Gorleston's tourism.

Williams rightfully pointed out that "people don't want to pay for a lesson if they could get poorly from it. It could have a big impact on local businesses that rely on tourism, as after all, it is the chance to swim at the beach that draws people here."