Untreated (Raw) Sewage Discharges into the Sandbanks Area of Poole Harbour 2022

Data from the Wessex Water Coastwatch system. The feed isn't infallible - some alerts are erroneous and several overlap so you might see three 'Starts' and only one 'Stop' for example, but it gives you an idea of how much raw sewage is being pumped into Poole Harbour. Remember - this is just for the four CSOs in the Sandbanks area - the main outfalls are all in Holes Bay - two dozen CSOs licenced to pump 44,000 metric tons of treated sewage each day into the water and unmonitored (and therefore unlimited) amounts of raw sewage when Wessex Water deem the rain to be 'heavy'. This is a list of the raw sewage discharges.

The 2022 Surfers Against Sewage Water Quality Report's introduction summaries the situation neatly:

The UK is riddled with a crumbling network of sewage pipes that leak and overflow beneath our feet. Our combined sewerage network mixes both sewage effluent and surface water runoff to be treated at one of the thousands of wastewater treatment plants dotted around the country. This system can become overwhelmed at times of heavy rainfall. Over 23,000 sewage overflows, installed throughout the network, are designed to take the pressure off the system when it becomes overloaded, preventing overflowing drains and sewage backing up into our homes. However, these overflows release a chemical cocktail of sewage pollution, agricultural pollution, contaminants from roads, household chemicals, and rainwater directly into our rivers and the ocean. They are therefore intended to be for emergency use only, during periods of ‘exceptionally heavy rainfall’.

The Surfers Against Sewage 2022 Water Quality Report that states Wessex Water discharged only 215 hours over the whole of its cachent area - this is because Kite Beach is not yet designated as a Bathing Water and as such nearby discharges are not included in their figures. The BeachPeople Whitley Lake Campaign aims to change this.

Derelict glass fibre (GRP) boat near Poole Quay, Poole Harbour, Sept 2022

Derelict Boats

The BeachPeople campaign to have Whitley Lake (aka Kite Beach), Sandbanks designated as a bathing water introduced us to many helpful people who are of similar mind when it comes to protection of the Harbour and its ecosystem.

As the Whitley Lake Campaign is nearly complete, we felt we would like to continue to make a difference and the next obvious candidate is the number of obviously derelict boats either sunk at their moorings or washed/dragged ashore.

At more or less the same time, Practical Boat Owner detailed the results of a study in nearby Chichester Harbour about the effects of glass fibre* on aquatic organisms - it seemed destiny!

Hence the snappily named "BeachPeople Against Derelict Boats On / Around The Shoreline" Campaign (we are working hard on an acronym).

BeachPeople will be working with Poole Harbour Commission and BCP Council to safely recover and dispose of derelict boats found in the water or on the beaches, in order to stop the problem at source.

There are legal issues to overcome involving ownership but our way is to make gentle but continual progress over beer time until the problem is solved.

Since it's largely political this isn't a campaign where we'll be looking for financial support, but we always welcome new members.

*fibre/fibre - fibre is the UK spelling, fiber is the US

GRP - (Glass Reinforced Plastic) is the same as fibreglass - a brittle plastic resin stippled over a chopped strand mat (CSM) or a woven fabric

Fibreglas - that's a generic trademark

..but they are all types of glass fibre; essentially if it breaks down into glass fibre strands in the water then it's a problem

For more information on this campaign please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Nov 16th 2022:

BeachPeople tabled this question and for the BCP Cabient meeting on Nov 8th:

Following a recent study in Chichester Harbour it was found that derelict glass fibre boats do not biodegrade; rather they degrade into strands that can cause cancer in aquatic organisms and become part of the food chain in the form of microplastics. Would BCP support BeachPeople’s second campaign, called BADBOATS, by assisting either with the collection of, or the disposal of, the derelict glass fibre boats sunk and beached around Poole Harbour? BeachPeople intend to work with BCP and PHC to effect a permanent solution to this problem, prevention being better than cure. For more info please see: https://beachpeople.club/index.php/campaigns/derelict-boats

We received this response from Councillor Mark Anderson

I would like to Thank [BeachPeople] for his question and I’m glad the work we have done together on Kite beach is coming to fruition.

The short answer is a qualified YES, we are very keen to support the campaign in relation to sunken boats in the Harbour as we agree with [..] BeachPeople that these are an ecological and environmental hazard and need to be removed.  Those areas of the shoreline that is our land and used by us, we will work with the BeachPeople  to develop a method for removal,  this includes the greenspaces controlled by Environment, and beaches controlled by Destination and Culture.  However, there are areas which whilst council land is leased to other users and we may not be able to assist with.

Nov 28th 2022: Bournemouth Echo reports on BeachPeople's BADBOATS campaign.

SAS Report 2021

The Surfers Against Sewage Report was released in November 2021 - it's a comprehensive PDF document running to 31 pages that can be downloaded directly from the SAS website here.

Since we are only focusing on Poole Harbour, we are therefore only concerned with Wessex Water which has been helpful in providing data and has contested SAS' findings both in the 2021 report and its predecessor.

One area of concern that BeachPeople raised with Wessex Water on December 9th 2021 was the apparent doubling in number of discharges and notifications by Wessex Water over the last year as these images from the report highight:

BeachPeople queried the rise in both discharges and discharge notifications in this exchange with Dave Joned of Wessex Water (edited for brevity)

BeachPeople - As you probably know the SAS 2021 Water Quality Report has been published and there are a couple of areas I feel Wessex Water should be provided the opportunity to explain, so could you please let us know why the total number of discharges and notifications rose significantly during 2021 compared to 2019 and 2020?
Total discharges seem to have doubled based on fig 4, whereas several other water company's discharges have reduced - why is that?

Dave Jones, Wessex Water -We have had discussions with SAS in advance of the publication of their report on how they are using our data and we were disappointed that some of the data included remains misleading.  SAS produce their report based on the ‘notification alerts’ they receive from us. Unfortunately, this data can be misleading as the alerts do not always reflect storm overflow use and there can also be false alarms triggered by wildlife or mobile communication issues.

There is also a problem with data in the report when comparing total number of notifications:

We provide SAS with data for all beaches and many amenity waters; and we provide this data all year around, which other water companies don’t.  It means we are shown as having a high number of notifications and so skews company comparisons.  We’re effectively shown negatively and penalised in the report for being the most transparent in providing SAS with a comprehensive data set.

We worked with the Environment Agency to establish the overflows of most concern, and for how long they should be allowed to discharge before an alert is issued.  We have no visibility of how other companies have carried out this task, however.  If the methods are significantly different between companies, then again, comparisons are not valid.

In addition to the above, the number of assets fitted with Event Duration Monitoring is being increased in line with the goal of fitting all required assets by 2023.  As more EDM monitors come online each year, the total number of assets monitored and the number of discharges which occur will inevitably increase year on year until all assets are fitted, at which point variability is likely to be driven more by weather related factors.

As of Dec 17th BeachPeople is considering further investigation there vs. awaiting the results of the sampling which will start in very early January.

13th April 2022 - BCP Cabinet Meeting

BeachPeople attended the meeting with the intention of drawing cabinet-wide consensus on whether all departments within the Council support the designation of Whitley Lake as a bathing water

We had tabled the following question:

"BeachPeople are campaigning to have Whitely Lake (aka Kite Beach), Sandbanks harbour-side, designated by Defra as a Bathing Water.

This would mean that the Environment Agency will sample the water for E. Coli and Enterococci* twenty times per bathing season (from mid-May to September inc.)

Whitley Lake would then become the only sample point downstream of the large number of CSOs** in Holes Bay, source of the vast majority of sewage pollution in the Harbour.

Do any of the council departments, in particular Destination and Culture, have any objections to BeachPeople’s campaign, and if so, what are those objections?

* E. Coli and Enterococci are signifiers that harmful pathogens from sewage may be present in the water and therefore it is unsafe to swim. The EA will sample for these. BeachPeople currently do, using a mix of their own lab equipment and commercial testing facilities for confirmation of accuracy.

** a CSO is a Combined Sewage Outfall where treated sewage is discharged along with occasional discharges of raw sewage mixed with rainfall. "

This was the response from Cllr Mark Anderson:

"I would like to thank .. BeachPeople for this question and their determination to get the Whitely Lake/Kite Beach designated as a bathing water site.

I've discussed this issue with seafront staff from Destination and Culture and regulatory officer's and as the portfolio holder covering Seafront Operations, I'm happy to support your request.

However, we are not intending to update or provide additional facilities in this area. As this is not land owned or managed by BCP Council, we are however conscious of its popularity and use and would support improvements.

As I know [BeachPeople have] concerns about water quality as I do, I thought it useful to let [them] know that I have written to all the BCP MPs and recently had a meeting with the local MPs about the water quality in the area.

The focus of the meeting was on sewage outflows and the work BCP Council has been doing with various agencies to address this.

The aim was also to raise awareness with MPs and to focus on the impact on our Harbour / Shellfish industry. Sewage and the quality of our beaches was also discussed along with issues associated with people seeing foul surface water (mistakenly perceived as sewage) floating across beaches."


Since this was a publically recorded meeting this is very positive news as it represents official council policy that should not then be changed during the consultation period this year, so we can count this as a firm step forward.

BeachPeople Sponsors' Area

BeachPeople Sponsors contribute towards the costs of the regular, year-round testing of the water in Whitley Lake (aka Kite Beach, Sandbanks) for the presence of E. Coli and Enterococci (indicators of the presence of fecal material in water and, therefore of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and protozoa).

Sponsors who are able to contribute over a certain amount gain free full club membership (bearing in mind that the club is adults only) as well as access to a private 'Sponsors' area on the site that contains the non-published data such as detailed sample results, email communications with third parties and the sewage project announcements & updates (the information does remain confidential within the project and is not for sharing outside of the Sponsors group).

If you would like to contribute towards the costs of testing the water at Whitley Lake for sewage pollution throughout 2022 here's a PayPal link to do just that, either as a one-off donation or monthly.

If you are interested in becoming a BeachPeople Sponsor please drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we can chat it through.

Map showing the location of Whitley Lake relative to the ebb tidal flow from the 20+ sewage outfalls in Holes Bay