Campaigners take to the streets on National Day of Action over water pollution

The Dirty Water protests demand an end to the dumping of sewage into local rivers and waterways.

River pollution

Environmental campaigners are gathering across the UK today, in protest of the country’s polluted rivers, streams and seas.

The national day of Dirty Water protests involve Extinction Rebellion groups unveiling blue plaques around the UK to shine a light on the 265 MPs who voted against an amendment that would have prevented water companies from pumping waste into rivers and seas. The government rejected the proposal in October, claiming it would be too expensive.

In Shropshire, sewage pollution protestors Sewage Creek, are joining Extinction Rebellion. The protestors are handing out flyers on stalls in Shrewsbury, informing the public about the dire condition of the River Severn. Anglers recently complained about tampons floating on the river where it passes through Shrewsbury. The town council described the situation as “embarrassing.”

‘It’s criminal’

Claire Kirby, from Up Sewage Creek, says that everyone knows that raw sewage and agricultural run-off is killing our beautiful river.

“The question is: how do we fix it? We’re reaching out to Shrewsbury residents because unless ordinary people take action, the politicians and water companies will let the Severn die.

“The Environment Agency recently pushed the target date to clean up England’s rivers, lakes, and coastal waters from 2027 to 2063. At this rate none of us will see clean water again in our lifetimes. It’s criminal,” Kirby continued.

In Oxford, a similar protest is being staged this weekend. Councillors are joining political and activist groups to demand an end to the dumping of sewage into local rivers and waterways.

Wolvercote councillor Jo Sandelsone explained how Thames Water has been pouring untreated sewage into the stretch of the River Thames to the north and west of Oxford.

“The government responded by granting us Bathing Water Status. It sounded like a victory, but actually only means monitoring the pollution, not cleaning up the water.

“Thames Water is still allowed to pollute the river and waterways. They have even done so even in dry weather on the majority of days this January. This is illegal,” said Sandelsone.

Extinction Rebellion Oxford says the Dirty Water day of action is aimed at placing pressure on government and commercial interests to clean up their act and stop the ecological and environmental harm of polluted water.

Frank Daniels from Extinction Rebellion, commented: “We’ve watched in horror as our rivers and seas have been turned into open sewers since October, when the government voted down a proposal to stop water companies pumping waste directly into our waterways because it was too expensive to stop them.”

On February 24, environmentalist Feargal Sharkey will be speaking with Green Party peer Jenny Jones at a public meeting in Ramsgate. The meeting is being organised by Thanet Green Party and will discuss the impact of the continuing pollution of the coastline due to sewage releases by Southern Water.

Thanet Green Party Chair Councillor Mike Garner said: “Not only has Southern Water been responsible for an increasing number of pollution events, adversely impacting our coastal environments and several local businesses which depend on them, they’re also responsible for an increasing number of water outages this year.

“We’re really pleased that both Feargal Sharkey and Jenny Jones, who’ve worked together on several prominent campaigns to highlight failures within the water industry, have agreed to join us to discuss these issues that affect all of us.”

On April 21, ‘The Big One’ protest will be held in London, when tens of thousands of people will let the government know it is time to protest the country’s water, air and climate from destruction.

‘Surfing in a sewer’

Today’s Dirty Water protests follow news this week that one of the world’s leading windsurfers has quit the south coast of England for Spain. Sarah Jackson, twice silver medallist at the world championships, described training near her home in England as “surfing in a sewer.”

“This being Britain, where rainfall is very high and because I have to train in all weathers, there were some days when I was basically surfing in a sewer.

“That’s not just unpleasant it’s actually health threatening, but it’s opened my eyes to the problem of pollution in our waterways, not just from sewage but from chemicals and plastics, too,” said Jackson.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Image credit: YouTube screengrab

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