Triathletes sick with diarrhoea after swimming through 'human waste'
6th August 2023

Up to 57 world championship triathlon athletes fall sick and suffer from diarrhoea after swimming through ‘human waste’ filled sea in Sunderland amid backlash at water firms dumping sewage in UK waterways

At least 57 people have fallen ill and are suffering from diarrhoea after swimming in the sea during the World Triathlon Championships in Sunderland, health bosses have confirmed.

Roughly 2,000 people took part in the major tournament last weekend, which saw athletes swim in the sea at Roker Beach, which was given a prestigious Blue Flag award for its cleanliness just two years ago.

A test run by the UK’s Environment Agency just three days before the event revealed that there were 3,900 E. Coli colonies per 100ml, which is nearly 40 times higher than typical readings from June. 

E. Coli bacteria can cause severe stomach and life-threatening bouts of diarrhoea.

But British Triathlon, which runs official triathlons in the UK, said these results were only published after the event took place and that the tests were run outside the area that its sea swimming event happened, the Guardian reported.

E. Coli levels at Roker Beach were reportedly nearly 40 times higher than they typically were last month

British health officials are now investigating the waters around Roker Beach following the horrific outbreak of diarrhoea

Brits have previously been warned that they may suffer similar fates as water companies pump raw sewages near beaches up and down the country

Top athletes slammed British Triathlon for its alleged carelessness, with one world champion, Jake Birtwhistle (pictured) claiming that the race should have been cancelled

It added that its own tests showed the waters had passed the required standards for the triathlon. 

The outbreak of diarrhoea comes as British beaches are suffering a deluge of raw sewage being released into waters that people swim in every day. 

In 2022 alone, England and Wales suffered more than 380,000 spills, or nearly 2,350,000 hours, of treated sewage and overflows of untreated sewage.

Water companies up and down the country have come under fire for allegedly not doing enough to clean up their messes. 

In June, Thames Water’s chief executive Sarah Bentley dramatically resigned from her post after the water company was heavily criticised for spilling raw sewage into the sea 22 times a day, as well as being £14 billion in debt.   

Earlier this year, campaign group Surfers Against Sewage released an interactive map to warn Brits of the beaches they need to avoid due to high levels of sewage. 

At least 57 athletes have fallen ill following the massive event that took place last weekend in Sunderland

Roker Beach was given a prestigious Blue Flag award by the Foundation for Environmental Education for its cleanliness just two years ago

Roughly 2,000 people took part in the World Championship tournament last weekend in Sunderland

England and Wales suffered 380,000 spills for nearly 2,350,000 hours of treated sewage and overflows of untreated sewage in 2022 alone. Affected areas included popular seaside destinations, beauty spots and once-celebrated rivers (stock)

READ MORE: Customers face rising water bills for ‘up to 100 YEARS’ to pay for cleaning sewage from rivers

Top Australian athlete Jake Birtwhistle, who has won several triathlons across the world, said in an Instagram post earlier this week:

‘Have been feeling pretty rubbish since the race, but I guess that’s what you get when you swim in s***.

‘I wasn’t feeling great in the individual race so decided to save myself for a good relay leg.

‘Some positives to take away leading into Paris in 2 weeks, but the swim should have been cancelled.’

Other athletes who said they were also at Roker Beach last weekend agreed, with one person saying in a commented response: ‘That now explains why I spent Monday night with my head in the toilet after racing Sunday morning!’ 

READ MORE: Water bosses issue grovelling apology after millions of tons of sewage is dumped in Britain’s rivers and coasts 

Another said: ‘I’m still feeling nauseous now, not impressed. Even worse for the elites who do this for a living.’

Data from The Rivers Trust shows that a sewer storm overflow discharged into the Wear Estuary, near the triathlon event, 28 times in 2022 for a total of 370 hours.  

Northumbrian Water, which runs this overflow, said these sewage discharges would not affect Roker beach because they were “intercepted” and discharged by a long-sea outfall. 

A spokesperson for Northumbrian Water added: ‘We have had no discharges from any of our assets that might negatively impact water quality at either Roker or the neighbouring Whitburn North bathing water since October 2021. 

‘Both bathing waters were designated as “Excellent” in the latest Defra classifications, and sampling to date in the current season indicate this high quality is being maintained.’

Officials from the UK Health Security Agency said that it will be investigating samples from those who fell ill to figure out the cause of the illness. 

All 83 beaches Britons are warned to AVOID due to sewage dumped 

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