New figures have revealed the Norfolk beaches that have been worst-hit by sewage.

Environment Agency data shows untreated wastewater flowed directly into the county's coastal waters for more than 4,300 hours in 2023 - the equivalent of 179 days.

The spills came from storm overflows, which dump sewage into rivers and the sea, usually during periods of heavy rainfall to stop sewers from backing up and flooding.

Eastern Daily Press: People enjoying the sand and sea at Caister beachPeople enjoying the sand and sea at Caister beach (Image: Newsquest)

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Caister-on-Sea, a major holiday destination, was the worst beach affected, with locals angry at what they say is a lack of action to address the problems.

It has prompted calls from coastal councillors for the government to be tougher on the issue, described as "environmental vandalism".

READ MORE: Norfolk Broads village named as county's sewage hotspot

Eastern Daily Press: Environment Agency data has revealed the sewage spill hotspots in NorfolkEnvironment Agency data has revealed the sewage spill hotspots in Norfolk (Image: Newsquest)

The shocking figures emerged in a huge release of national data from the Environment Agency, which said there were a total of 3.6 million hours of spills compared to 1.75 million hours in 2022.

Anglian Water, which is responsible for much of the region's sewer network, had the biggest increase of spills of all England's water companies.

The water company blamed exceptionally wet weather for the rise and a 32pc increase in the amount of overflow monitoring data. 

Eastern Daily Press: Mundesley beach in north NorfolkMundesley beach in north Norfolk (Image: Newsquest)


Sewage was released for 4,300 hours from 40 storm overflows around the Norfolk coast and at the mouths of coastal rivers in 2023.

At Caister-on-Sea sewage was released for more than 560 hours during 106 spills, prompting fears from local parish councillors it could put people off swimming in the sea.

The level is nearly double the number of hours wastewater flowed from the Caister overflow in 2022 - 277 hours.

Other beaches that had high levels of sewage discharged include Mundesley (250 hours) and West Runton (150 hours).

READ MORE: How sewage stink is putting people off 'Britain's best beach'

In west Norfolk, sewage was released into the River Great Ouse for 2,387 hours from 13 overflows in King's Lynn before then flowing into the Wash - an internationally important wetland environment.

Eastern Daily Press: A view down the River Great Ouse in King's Lynn, which flows out into The WashA view down the River Great Ouse in King's Lynn, which flows out into The Wash (Image: Newsquest)

Hunstanton, a popular holiday resort known for its Victorian charm, had 58 spills from two overflows for a duration of 66 hours.

A site in Burnham Overy, which flows out into the River Burn before reaching the sea near Holkham beach discharged wastewater for 136 hours. 

Hunstanton, Burnham Overy and Wells saw a huge increase in the number of spills last year - more than a 1000pc rise. 

In Great Yarmouth and Gorleston, overflows at the mouth of the River Yare close to the two town's beaches released sewage for 880 hours.

Cromer and Sheringham had very few spills, with less than ten incidents between them.

Eastern Daily Press: A sunny day on Hunstanton beachA sunny day on Hunstanton beach (Image: Newsquest)


Locals in Caister have been left frustrated that the situation got worse last year.

Kevin Wood, chairman of Caister Parish Council, said: "It’s disappointing especially as we are a holiday destination. It’s a real problem.

"It cannot be good for people waiting to bathe in the sea.

Eastern Daily Press: Kevin Wood, chairman of Caister Parish CouncilKevin Wood, chairman of Caister Parish Council (Image: Newsquest)

"We have spoken with Anglian Water numerous times about the issue but nothing seems to get any better.  It is a great disappointment that it continues."

Eastern Daily Press: Steffan Aquarone, Liberal Democrat candidate for North NorfolkSteffan Aquarone, Liberal Democrat candidate for North Norfolk (Image: Alex Broadway)

Steffan Aquarone, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for North Norfolk and county councillor, has called for tougher action to be taken against sewage dumping. 

“It is a complete scandal that filthy sewage is being pumped into our rivers and sea," he said. 

“I grew up here in north Norfolk, and enjoyed regular trips to the beach with my mum and sisters.

"It sickens me to think that now, when I build sandcastles with my own children, we’re surrounded by sewage.

"We need to ban bonuses for water company fat cats whose firms have pumped filth into our waterways."

Eastern Daily Press: Ben Kewell, owner of Glide Surf School, which operates from Cromer and MundesleyBen Kewell, owner of Glide Surf School, which operates from Cromer and Mundesley (Image: Newsquest)

Despite the issue being a hot topic in recent years, Ben Kewell, owner of Glide Surf School which operates from Cromer and Mundesley beaches, has said it is not putting people off getting in the water.

"Sewage is always a concern. But we have not experienced any issues here in Cromer and we do not get any complaints from people."

READ MORE: Councillor accused of 'frightening locals' living along threatened coastline

Eastern Daily Press: People taking part in a surf lesson on Cromer beachPeople taking part in a surf lesson on Cromer beach (Image: Newsquest)


Anglian Water has said it will invest £1bn in storm overflows and that it is working hard to drive down the number of spills.

It hopes a £50m 'spills taskforce' will help tackle the problem and £113m has been invested already in Norfolk alone in recent years.

An Anglian Water spokeswoman has said they are "disappointed to see our spill numbers have increased" but added the exceptionally wet weather in late 2023 compared to a much drier year previously had contributed to the stark increase.

She added: "We are confident that investments we’ve been making to reduce spills have moved the dial in the right direction and spills would have been considerably higher without it." 

Concerning Caister, Anglian Water has said the storm overflow is located a mile out to sea and that its modelling has shown it has no impact on water quality at the beach.

Eastern Daily Press: Conservative MP Duncan Baker in Cley on the north Norfolk coastConservative MP Duncan Baker in Cley on the north Norfolk coast (Image: Duncan Baker)

Duncan Baker, Conservative MP for North Norfolk, has welcomed steps taken in recent years by the company.

"I'm pleased that Anglian Water has committed to reducing storm overflow discharges, including substantial spending in North Norfolk. Next month, millions will be spent in West Runton on Storm overflow tanks - I will keep campaigning to ensure my coastal communities continue to see high levels of investment."

But Surfers Against Sewage, a national campaign group, believes the number of sewage spills is the result of years of "devastating underinvestment".

Josh Harris, head of communications, said: "It’s a sorry sight to see much loved holiday destinations along the Norfolk coastline blighted by sewage pollution.

"The water industry and government must put people and planet before profit and reverse the shameful decline of our seas as a matter of great urgency."