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Addressing the challenges of combined sewer overflows

Perry, William Bernard, Ahmadian, Reza ORCID:, Munday, Max ORCID:, Jones, Owen ORCID:, Ormerod, Steve J. ORCID: and Durance, Isabelle ORCID: 2024. Addressing the challenges of combined sewer overflows. Environmental Pollution 343 , 123225. 10.1016/j.envpol.2023.123225

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Europe's ageing wastewater system often combines domestic sewage with surface runoff and industrial wastewaters. To reduce the associated risk of overloading wastewater treatment works during storms, and to prevent wastewater backing-up into properties, Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) are designed into wastewater networks to release excess discharge into rivers or coastal waters without treatment. In view of growing regulatory scrutiny and increasing public concern about their excessive discharge frequencies and potential impacts on environments and people, there is a need to better understand these impacts to allow prioritisation of cost-effective solutions.We review: i) the chemical, physical and biological composition of CSOs discharges; ii) spatio-temporal variations in the quantity, quality and load of overflows spilling into receiving waters; iii) the potential impacts on people, ecosystems and economies. Despite investigations illustrating the discharge frequency of CSOs, data on spill composition and loading of pollutants are too few to reach representative conclusions, particularly for emerging contaminants. Studies appraising impacts are also scarce, especially in contexts where there are multiple stressors affecting receiving waters. Given the costs of addressing CSOs problems, but also the likely long-term gains (e.g. economic stimulation as well as improvements to biodiversity, ecosystem services, public health and wellbeing), we highlight here the need to bolster these evidence gaps. We also advocate no-regrets options to alleviate CSO problems taking into consideration economic costs, carbon neutrality, ecosystem benefit and community well-being. Besides pragmatic, risk-based investment by utilities and local authorities to modernise wastewater systems, these include i) more systemic thinking, linking policy makers, consumers, utilities and regulators, to shift from local CSO issues to integrated catchment solutions with the aim of reducing contributions to wastewater from surface drainage and water consumption; ii) broader societal responsibilities for CSOs, for example through improved regulation, behavioural changes in water consumption and disposal of waste into wastewater networks, and iii) greater cost-sharing of wastewater use.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Engineering
Business (Including Economics)
Water Research Institute (WATER)
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0269-7491
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 2 January 2024
Date of Acceptance: 23 December 2023
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2024 02:30

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