An annual swimming race in Devon has been called off after sewage was discharged into a harbour for more than five hours.

Lynmouth’s annual Richie Berry Cup Swimming race was due to be held on September 3 on the north Devon coast.

Organisers were forced to cancel the event which takes place in Lynmouth harbour, after the release of sewage from a South West Water (SWW) facility.

The race organiser, John Arbon said: “We stood there and thought, ‘What if someone gets sick?’ We couldn’t take that risk.”

As reported in The Times, the organisers said they had not received information from the water company on whether there would be more discharges or if they would receive up-to-date data on the quality of the water.

As the wind direction meant it was blowing the sea directly onto the harbour, this made it difficult to clear the sewage.

The Lynseals swimming group said on Facebook: “We apologise for the cancellation but hope you will understand our concerns.”

The group is urging swimmers to contact the North Devon MP, Selaine Saxby, and complain to SWW. The event is now due to be held on September 15.

Overflow systems release a mixture of rainwater run-off and raw sewage from homes and businesses.

According to the data available on the SWW’s website, a pumping station overflow in Lynmouth was activated at 5.14am and stopped at 10.48am.

SWW said it was investing record levels to reduce the use of storm overflows: “We can confirm there was storm overflow activity in Lynmouth over the weekend following heavy, localised rainfall.”

“Storm overflows are pressure relief valves built into our network that are an essential way to stop homes and businesses from flooding during periods of heavy rainfall. However, reducing the use of storm overflows is a priority for us and we are investing record levels to do so.”

“In Lynmouth specifically, we are investing over £4.25 million to March 2025 to reduce the risk of environmental impact from our sewerage network and maintain excellent bathing water quality.”

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