An FoI has revealed that an estimate of up to four million litres of untreated sewage are released into Laxey bay each day.

It also revealed that approximately 2.9 million litres are released into Peel bay daily. However, Manx Utilities says that the figures, which the authority itself released, only tells part of the story.

The figures were released under FoI by Manx Utilities which was asked for the estimated amount of raw sewage released either in gallons or cubic metres. 

In its response it said that the amount released in Peel is ‘estimated to be approximately 2,900m3 during dry weather’. 

As for Laxey, it said: ‘Estimated to be between 1,500m3 to 4,000m3 during dry weather, dependant on the time of year. Variation is due to high levels of infiltration within the catchment.’

The amounts given in cubic metres are equal to 2.9 million litres in Peel and between 1.5 and four million litres in Laxey.

Manx Utilities was also asked how often the water quality is measured or tested in Peel and Laxey bays, but it said this was not a matter for itself, rather one for the Department for Environment. 

On its website, DEFA says that it undertakes weekly tests, during the bathing season of April to September at four locations, Port Erin, Port St Mary, South Ramsey and Douglas central. Laxey and Peel are included on the list of non-designated bathing waters for four weekly monitoring.

Gov Response 

In response to the FoI and the letter detailed below, Manx Utilities said it is ‘ is fully committed to finding a solution which puts an end to the discharge of untreated sewage to sea in the two remaining areas of Garff and Peel where this still happens’.

The authority added: ‘The flow information provided was an estimate of the total amount of liquid that discharges through Manx Utilities’ outfalls. This liquid is not solely ‘human sewage’, but a mixture of sewage and groundwater (90% during Winter).

‘Using industry standard figures (150l/p/d) it is estimated that the following quantities of actual sewage are discharged each day:

Laxey 335m3 (335,000 litres)
Peel   975m3 (975,000 litres)

Manx Utilities is required to adhere to Discharge Licenses as issued by DEFA which permit the discharge of raw sewage at these locations.’

Legal Action

While the FoI was published on the gov’s website, we also received an email from advocate Ian Kermode who said the pumping of raw sewage could be subject to legal action after, unconfirmed, ‘mysterious illness’ in dogs that had been walking on Peel beach in January. 

Mr Kermode said: ‘We can now advise that civil legal action is being actively considered by a number of potential litigants against Manx Utilities and the Department of Environment, Food & Agriculture including under the Water Pollution Act 1993 and for negligence and breach of international environmental obligations.’

In his letter, Mr Kermode draws comparisons with the recent cases in England which saw Southern Water fined £90m for the continued pumping of sewage into the sea and water courses. The judge who presided over that case said Southern Water had shown a ‘shocking wholesale disregard for the environment, for precious and delicate ecosystems and coastlines, for human health, and for fisheries and other legitimate businesses that operate in the coastal waters’.

Mr Kermode said: ‘The relentless and disgusting daily discharge into Peel and Laxey Bays of vast amounts of raw sewage containing excrement, significant human viruses (including Covid-19), dangerous household chemicals and traces of medicine is anachronistic and poses a completely unacceptable risk of harm and infection to bathers, particularly children.’

He added that the gov was showing ‘shameful complacency’ and acting in a manner that was ‘plainly at odds’ with its Unesco Biosphere status.

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