An Exmouth sea swimmer has hit the headlines after announcing she’s taking legal action against South West Water over coastal sewage pollution.

Jo Bateman is claiming compensation for being unable to swim off Exmouth beach because of repeated sewage spills into the sea.

She’s also refusing to pay the sewage treatment element of her water bill.

Jo is claiming the pollution of the sea represents a loss of amenity, and that she is missing out on the mental and physical health benefits of sea swimming.

The sums of money involved are small: her claim is for £379.50 in compensation, fees and costs, and she owes South West Water £64 for the unpaid element of her bills. 

But Jo's story has now gone viral on social media. A video posted to X/Twitter by inews has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and she’s received countless messages of support.

Feargal Sharkey, the pop/punk star turned anti-sewage campaigner, described her as 'an incredible woman' and offered to help in any way he could.

Today (Wednesday, January 31) Jo told the Journal: “It’s crazy but fantastic – I never envisaged this, I just wanted to take them to court because I thought they should be held accountable.

“it’s gone viral on social media. It’s on Google, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram – it’s everywhere.

“I won’t get back the £50 it’s cost me (to lodge the claim) if I lose, but it’s been worth every penny a hundred times over for all the publicity it’s generated in just two days.

“Every single comment on every social media platform that I’ve seen has been positive, which is quite unusual for social media.”

If Jo does win her compensation, she hopes it will set a precedent for thousands of similar claims from people around Devon and Cornwall.

She said: “I was planning to go for a swim today (Wednesday, January 31) but last night South West Water were dumping raw sewage into the sea. They said it was triggered by the high tide. Now if that’s the case why isn’t it triggering every time we have a high tide?

“That’s now prevented me from swimming for 48 hours because I follow the World Health Organisation advice, I don’t want to take that risk.

“We all have a right to swim in the sea and they’ve taken that away. Many people won’t swim  in the sea when it’s dirty, and there are people in Exmouth who won’t swim now at all because they don’t trust South West Water.”

In response to Jo’s compensation claim, a spokesperson for South West Water said: “We are unable to respond to individual cases, however we take our responsibility to the environment very seriously and are investing record amounts to reduce the use of permitted storm overflows across the region, including circa £38 million earmarked for Exmouth up to 2030.”