Opposition councillors are calling for an emergency meeting of Sunderland Council to get to the bottom of the "Triathlon sewage scandal" – and to confirm whether or not the city’s beaches are safe to swim in.

SThe appeal comes after at least 57 people were confirmed as suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea after taking part in events during the World Triathlon Championships Series in Sunderland

Liberal Democrat councillors from across Sunderland are calling on the chief executive to convene an emergency, extraordinary meeting of all 75 city councillors as soon as possible to get to the bottom of the incident and agree a way forward to reassure the public.

Read more: We need answers about what made Sunderland triathletes ill

Opposition councillors want to see a debate and vote on their plan to make Council bosses:

  •  Start an independent Council-led testing process for assessing the water quality off Sunderland’s beaches.
  •  Set up an independent public inquiry into why the World Triathlon Championship Series Event was allowed to go ahead.
  •  Commission a full independent investigation and survey of the sewage system and outflows into the River Wear and North Sea off Sunderland.
  •  Provide an urgent update on how this situation was allowed to happen given the Council’s duty of care to participants and to safeguarding public health; and whether the water off beaches in Sunderland is safe to swim in.

Lib Dem councillors say they have been campaigning for years to get the Council to take Northumbrian Water to task for the "persistent dumping of raw sewage off the Wearside coast".

Read more: Probe as athletes ill after Sunderland Triathlon World Championship series

Lib Dem councillor for the seaside Fulwell and Seaburn areas of the city Malcolm Bond said: “This incident has put Sunderland in the headlines across the country for all the wrong reasons. It’s a complete disgrace.

“If Sunderland Council knew the water was unsafe then they should have cancelled the event. If they didn’t know whether or not the water was unsafe then they have completely failed in their duty of care to participants and to public health.

“The public deserve the truth. That’s why Lib Dem councillors are demanding that Sunderland Council starts its own regular testing and publishes the results.

"It is only by independent testing – together with a full inquiry into what happened at the Triathlon and an independent survey of the sewage systems in Sunderland – that the Council can start to give the public the truth and the reassurance they need about swimming at Roker and Seaburn in the future.”

A spokesperson for Sunderland City Council said: "The City Council takes safeguarding public health and our duty of care to participants and everyone who lives and works in our city, and visits, extremely seriously.

"We are continuing to work with UKHSA North East's Health Protection team as they carry out epidemiological investigations to understand more about possible causes of illness in participants. 

"At this stage we would not speculate until these investigations are complete." 

Northumbrian Water has insisted there have been no sewage discharges at the beach since 2021.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We routinely sample and monitor bathing waters, including at Roker, to provide information for bathers and support our ongoing work to improve their condition.

“The beaches at Roker and Seaburn were both classified as ‘excellent’ last year based on samples taken throughout the season from May to September over the last four years.

“Temporary dips in water quality can be caused by several factors, including heavy rain.

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“We will continue to investigate pollution sources and drive improvements to ensure cleaner and healthier waters for people to enjoy.”

A Northumbrian Water spokesperson said: “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.”