Nearly 1,000 “dark discharges” of untreated sewage from two water company treatment plants in England have been detected by scientists using artificial intelligence to map spills. The use of machine learning to shine a light on the scale of pollution from untreated effluent being spilled into rivers could be a crucial tool in efforts to improve the quality of rivers, a paper says. Prof Peter Hammond, visiting scientist at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, who co-authored the paper published in the journal Clean Water, used artificial intelligence to analyse data from two unidentified water companies’ waste treatment works from 2009 to 2018. The AI identified 926 “dark discharges” – or previously unknown spills – from the storm overflows at the two treatment plants. Discharges of untreated sewage from storm overflows, or CSOs, are permitted only in exceptional circumstances, such as extreme rainfall, the European commission has ruled. The spills identified by the AI included many during periods of unexceptional rainfall. Of these spills of untreated sewage, 360 discharged into rivers for a whole day, often spilling for more than 10 full days in a row. The impact of a full day of untreated sewage flowing into a […]

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