A legal campaign group has filed proceedings in the High Court against the water services regulator for England and Wales, Ofwat, over alleged failures to regulate sewage discharge into rivers, lakes and the sea.
The group, Wild Justice, said it believes that Ofwat has "gone missing in addressing its legal obligations to ensure sewage works are fit for purpose in the 21st Century".
As a result, untreated sewage was discharged into watercourses over 350,000 times in each of the last two years, the group claims.
In a pre-action protocol letter sent in the spring, the group outlined its concern that a "lack of action (including monitoring and enforcement action) in relation to the planned and unplanned discharge of untreated sewage into rivers and other water bodies is creating and maintaining excessive nutrient levels which, in turn, is highly detrimental to the health and biodiversity of those watercourses".
It added that it believed Ofwat's alleged inactivity put the regulator in breach of the Water Industry Act 1991 and the Urban Waste Water Treatment (England and Wales) Regulations 1994.
Ofwat's response to the pre-action letter was not sufficient, according to the group, and it has now applied to the High Court for permission for a judicial review.
"We aim to get Ofwat to face up to its legal responsibilities and the only way to do that is to go to court," the group said.
Wild Justice subsequently launched a crowdfunding campaign that has already reached its target of £40,000.
Wild Justice said it is working closely with Windrush Against Sewage Pollution, a campaign group that investigates and analyses sewage discharge and which has brought these matters to Ofwat's attention
Solicitors at Leigh Day are acting for the group.