A tiny village on the Norfolk Broads has been revealed as the location of the most sewage 'spills' in the entire county.

Environment Agency figures have shown wastewater flowed from an Anglian Water sewage treatment works in Belaugh into the River Bure for more than 2,000 hours in 2023 - the equivalent of 84 days.

Eastern Daily Press: Belaugh from across the riverBelaugh from across the river (Image: Newsquest)

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

The number of sewage spills at Belaugh - a picturesque village popular with boaters and paddleboarders - was almost three times the number from the previous year and was the highest in the county.

The second highest number was a location on the River Ant, between Horning and Ludham Bridge, which spilled for more than 1,700 hours.

The overflow here, which is near How Hill and in another area popular with boaters and paddleboarders, had a total of 91 spills lasting the equivalent of 70 days.

Eastern Daily Press: Boats sailing past Horning on the River BureBoats sailing past Horning on the River Bure (Image: Newsquest)

The shocking figures emerged in a huge release of 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.

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

READ MORE: Where 'chemical cocktails' are poisoning Norfolk's rivers

The data has led to calls from MPs and councillors for a national environmental emergency to be declared to help tackle the problem.

READ MORE: Norfolk villagers 'unable to use loo for days on end' due to overflowing sewage

Eastern Daily Press: Councillor Fran WhymarkCouncillor Fran Whymark (Image: DENISE BRADLEY)


Fran Whymark, Broadland councillor for Wroxham and a member of the Broads Authority, has urged the situation to be investigated and improved immediately.

"People should be able to enjoy our rivers without spillages polluting them and posing a risk of serious harm," said Mr Whymark.

"This area of the Broads is a well-known destination for holidaymakers and locals hoping to canoe, paddleboard or just swim.  

"But doing so could leave them with a tummy bug or far worse.

"Anglian Water needs to look at how it can improve this so that people feel safe.

"It is just not good enough."

Norfolk County Councillor Rob Colwell, who is also running as a Liberal Democrat to become North West Norfolk MP, said: "It is a complete scandal that filthy sewage is being pumped into our stunning Norfolk Broads and our county's rivers and waterways. 

"There should be a national emergency declared."

READ MORE: Anglian Water slammed by Norfolk councillors over sewage

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)


Water companies are allowed to release sewage through storm overflows when the system is overwhelmed during heavy rain in order to help prevent flooding.

However, the issue has become a growing scandal across the country and has led to people demanding for the practice to be stopped.

Figures from Defra show wastewater is the source of 36pc of pollution affecting rivers and lakes, while 40pc is from runoff of pesticides, fertilisers, slurry and soil from farming.

Anglian Water has said it is "working hard" to drive down the number of spills and is investing £50m into a 'spills taskforce to tackle the problem, while £113m has been invested to tackle spills in Norfolk alone, such as at Horning, Fakenham and Norwich.

Eastern Daily Press: A view of the River Ant looking across How Hill, close to the Horning sewage overflow siteA view of the River Ant looking across How Hill, close to the Horning sewage overflow site (Image: Newsquest)


Sewage flowed into Norfolk's rivers and coastal waters for thousands of hours in 2023.

As well as Belaugh and Horning, several other areas have been badly affected.

READ MORE: Norfolk Broads firms left high and dry because boats cannot fit under bridge

Eastern Daily Press: Paddle boarding is a popular sport in the Norfolk Broads, particularly around Belaugh and Horning Paddle boarding is a popular sport in the Norfolk Broads, particularly around Belaugh and Horning (Image: Newsquest)

Sewage flowed for more than 1,600 hours from a Grimston treatment works into the Gaywood River - a rare chalk stream that rises near Derby Fen in west Norfolk before flowing into King's Lynn. 

Caister-on-Sea beach was one of the worst affected coastal areas, with sewage flowing for 562 hours from an outfall off the beach.

Eastern Daily Press: A blustery day on Caister beachA blustery day on Caister beach (Image: Newsquest)

The Great Yarmouth/Gorleston area as a whole had 880 hours of sewage spills.

At an overflow off Mundesley Beach, wastewater was released for 250 hours.

In the Norwich area, sewage flowed into the River Wensum and River Yare for about 1,038 hours.

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." 

Eastern Daily Press: Water minister Rebecca PowWater minister Rebecca Pow (Image: PA)

Water Minister Rebecca Pow said the volume of sewage being "discharged into our waters is unacceptable and we are taking action to make sure polluters are held to account".

But critics, which include campaigner Feargal Sharkey, believe not enough is being done by Defra and the Environment Agency to clamp down on water companies.

Labour's shadow environment secretary Steve Reed has urged the government to immediately ban bonuses for water companies found to be polluting waterways and has said his party would impose tougher measures on the firms.

Eastern Daily Press: A view of the river in BelaughA view of the river in Belaugh (Image: Google)


Sitting between Coltishall and Wroxham, the scenic Belaugh is one of the Norfolk Broads' hidden gems.

Rare for Norfolk, it sits on a hill at one edge of the Bure valley and its name, made up of a combination of Norse and Anglo-Saxon words, is thought to mean a "dwelling place by the water".

Aside from its attractive staithe, a church and small number of houses, there is little else.

But this has helped keep it unspoiled although figures from the Environment Agency have shone an unfortunate spotlight on the community.