Activism

Thousands set to join protests demanding end to sewage pollution by 2030

Every single English river failed a test for pollution in 2020.

Surfers Against Sewage has called the report a "damning indictment" of the bodies polluting England's rivers. Image: Ben Birchall/Surfers Against Sewage

Thousands of people are expected to join protests across the country this weekend, demanding an end to sewage pollution in UK bathing waters by 2030.

The protests, organised by Surfers Against Sewage, were prompted by long-running concerns over the state of the country’s rivers, and in particular news that water companies discharged raw sewage into English rivers 372,533 times in 2021.

Every single river in England failed a test for pollution in 2020, and experts have warned the pollution is breeding drug-resistant diseases.

Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Clean water is essential for all life. Yet decades of mismanagement by the water industry have contributed to our rivers becoming pollution superhighways; riddled with sewage, chemicals and filth.”

He added: “This weekend, thousands of people will be taking to river banks, streets and beaches to call for change and call for an end to sewage pollution. When an industry smells this bad, it’s hardly surprising people have had enough.”

Billed as the first National Day of Action on Water Quality, protesters will use Saturday to call on water companies to stop polluting UK waterways.

Protests will take place in the following places across the UK: Edinburgh, Belfast, Scarborough, Tynemouth, Bath, Abergavenny, Nottinghamshire, Manningtree, London, Worthing, Newquay, and Liverpool.

The protests are organised by Surfers Against Sewage, along with regional campaign groups including Welsh Rivers Union and SOS Whitstable.

They are targeting all 12 water companies in the UK, asking for better practices and stronger government action.

Peter Hammond, former professor of computational biology at University College London, said: “Illegal dumping of untreated sewage to inland and coastal waters has been rife across the UK for more than a decade.

“The protests this weekend prove that the public is fed up with the government’s lack of regulation, which continues to put the health of people and the environment at serious risk.”

Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron this week introduced a bill to parliament aiming to reduce the amount of sewage being pumped into England’s rivers.

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