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Personal Injury

Has Sewage Pollution Made You Ill? Claim Compensation

Sewage pollution poses significant health risks to individuals who come into contact with contaminated water bodies, such as seas and rivers.

Swimming in the sea - sewage pollution

Impact Of Sewage Pollution In The Sea And Rivers

Swimming or water sports in seas or rivers polluted by raw sewage can cause gastroenteritis, hepatitis and other infections (ear, nose, throat, skin):

  • Gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) causes diarrhoea, sickness, pain, high temperature, aching muscles and headaches. Symptoms can last up to a week.
  • Hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) – symptoms can include sickness, nausea, muscle and joint pain, high temperature, jaundice, continual tiredness, stomach pain, itchy skin and loss of appetite. Hepatitis can also result in liver failure (but this is rare). 

    You could also lose earnings if you’re off sick from work. This is particularly serious for self-employed tradespeople or for workers on zero-hours contracts. 

Has Sewage In The Water Made You Ill? Book A Chat With A Personal Injury Lawyer

How Much Compensation Could I Claim?

Compensation payouts range from up to £3,500 for symptoms lasting a few days to £46,000 for long-term and permanent health problems:

  • pain, disabling cramps lasting a few days or weeks – up to £3,500
  • significant discomfort lasting a few months, hospital treatment, recurring bouts – £3,500 to £8,500
  • serious but short-lived illness for two to four weeks with consequences lasting for years – £8,500 to £16,500
  • severe toxicosis, serious acute pain, hospitalisation, illness affecting quality of life and ability to work, possibility of permanent damage to health – £33,700 to £46,000.

How Widespread Is The Pollution Problem?

Coles Miller Marketing Director Nick Balchin is a member and trainer at the Southbourne Surf Life Saving Club. He swims in the sea four or five times a week – sometimes twice a day – and he sees how bad the pollution problem has become.

“It’s very obvious that the beaches here in Bournemouth and Poole have been red-flagged a lot. As soon as there’s a downpour, beaches get red-flagged,” he said.

Like many surfers and open water swimmers, Nick receives regular updates on water quality from Surfers Against Sewage's Safer Seas and Rivers app.

In May 2021, beaches in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole were awarded 23 Blue Flags – gaining more than any other UK authority. The Blue Flag is an international award; beaches are assessed on criteria including safety, water quality and environmental management. 

However, between June and October 2020, the RNLI red-flagged Boscombe Pier 12 times – meaning that no-one could enter the water there “under any circumstances…due to water quality issues.”

And on 30 July 2021, it was reported that shellfish gathering in parts of Poole Harbour had been suspended temporarily due to sewage pollution. BCP Council has been working with Wessex Water – which controls the sewage infrastructure in that area – to minimise the impact on local shellfish firms.

Weeks earlier, Southern Water was fined a record £90 million after dumping between 16-21 billion litres of raw sewage into internationally protected seas off north Kent and Hampshire. 

It was the largest ever fine of its kind.

Southern Water admitted 6,971 illegal spills from 17 sites in Hampshire, Kent and West Sussex between 2010 and 2015. The company blamed a series of mechanical and technological faults.

How Do I Prove It Was Sewage Pollution That Made Me Ill?

To prove your claim, you must get treatment from a GP or at a hospital within hours of having been in the water. Their diagnosis of your condition and its cause will be crucial to your case.

The issue is that there could be various possible causes of your illness – such as eating badly prepared or contaminated food.

But if you can prove that other swimmers or surfers were also affected that day, then you have a stronger case. Especially if they went to the doctor or hospital too and each received a similar diagnosis.

On that basis, a court is more likely to rule that – on the balance of probabilities – it was polluted water that made you all ill.

How To Claim Compensation – No Win, No Fee

Our personal injury solicitors will handle your claim using a No Win No Fee arrangement – so there is no financial risk to you. Find out more here about No Win No Fee claims.

Most personal injury claims are settled out of court. Very few of the cases we handle ever need to go to court. The defendant usually admits liability long before then.

Get Expert Legal Advice On Injury Compensation Claims

For more information, contact Serious Injury Paralegal Crispin Cormack. He specialises in personal injury cases, notably: road traffic accidents; injuries at work; slips, trips and falls; public liability claims, and criminal injuries.

Crispin provides the media with expert legal comment on personal injury litigation. He has been interviewed by ITV News and BBC Radio 5 Live.

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