A popular Aberystwyth bathing area has seen the highest number of sewage discharges of any Blue Flag beach in England and Wales last year, figures suggest.

New analysis of Environment Agency data by the Liberal Democrats has revealed there were 142 separate incidents of overflow at Aberystwyth south beach last year.

This equates to nearly 1,500 hours of effluent discharge – which is equivalent to 61 days.

Blue Flag status is a prestigious international award scheme from the Foundation for Environmental Education which aims to provide assurance to bathers that a beach has met a minimum standard of water quality.

Aberystwyth South Beach was first awarded a Blue Flag in 2019 and joined an exclusive group of less than 25 across the country at the time. The status is repealed if water quality standards slip.

Poppit Sands beach in Pembrokeshire, along Cardigan Bay, saw sewage dumped 79 times lasting 1,518 hours – the longest duration of any Blue Flag beach in the country.

The Liberal Democrats have today called on the government to ban sewage discharges onto Blue Flag beaches to protect swimmers and wildlife.

Charity Surfers Against Sewage has also released a major report this week which claims illegal ‘dry spills’ are taking place, meaning water companies are discharging sewage even when there has not been heavy rainfall.

Controversy surrounds the practices of the UK’s private water companies which are legally entitled to release sewage to relieve pressure on the system during periods of extreme weather.

The private water sector refers to such discharges as combined storm overflows (CSOs), and warns of flooding and damage to the system if they are prevented.

This week it has also been uncovered that the government’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs faces a £500 million real terms cut over the next two years after the Autumn Statement.

Tiverton and Honiton MP Richard Foord has spoken in Parliament about his son becoming sick after swimming in a river in his constituency.

He said: “Britain’s beaches are being spoiled by profiteering water companies that show little regard for where they dump sewage.

“Whilst they rake in multi-million-pound profits, we are left to swim in raw sewage. The whole thing stinks.

“Our children should not be getting sick from spending time in nature or building sandcastles next to sewage.

“Meanwhile, the government is slashing the environment department’s budget, which would otherwise help to end this disgusting legacy.

“Blue Flag beaches should be protected by the government. Ministers should tell water companies to halt discharges into wild swimming spots. It is time for action.”

Seas and waterways in Gwynedd and Ceredigion saw some of the highest numbers of sewage discharges in England and Wales last year, data suggests.

Figures from water provider Dŵr Cymru (Welsh Water) and regulator Natural Resource Wales show Gwynedd was particularly badly affected.

A Dŵr Cymru spokesperson said the water quality at Poppit Sands is consistently rated as ‘excellent’ while the issue of water quality falls under the remit of NRW.

He also pointed out a third of the Blue Flags awarded in England and Wales are on Welsh beaches, which makes up only 15 per cent of the coastline.

We have contacted NRW, Ceredigion County Council, and local politicians for comment.