Southern Water: Worthing protest against sewage dump

Campaigners are set for a large-scale protest against sewage dumping in Worthing.

Hundreds of people will gather at the seafront tomorrow (Saturday, April 23) to take part in the first National Day of Action on Water Quality, to call on Southern Water to end sewage pollution.

The Worthing protest is expected to take place at 1pm.

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Ocean conservation charity, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), has joined forces with clean water campaign groups to organise protests against all 12 UK water companies, with events taking place simultaneously in locations from Edinburgh to Newquay.

The protest against Southern Water will be happening on Worthing seafront. Pic: Steve Robards

The protests come after data was released by the Environment Agency (EA) on March 31, revealing that in 2021, water companies discharged raw sewage into UK rivers 372,533 times, for a combined total of more than 2.7 million hours – prompting outcry from the public and campaigners.

Hugo Tagholm, CEO of SAS, said that 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: “Millions of hours of sewage are routinely dumped into the blue arteries of the country – our rivers - destroying these crucial ecosystems that sustain us.

“It seems the water industry believes our rivers and coastline are a place to pollute when they want to maximise shareholder returns and executive pay.

“After all, who has really been holding them to account until now? We can’t allow the fat cats to continue using our rivers as a toilet.

“The river and beach loving public have had enough – water companies must make urgent investments, funded from their vast profits, to turn off their filthy pollution tap and restore our rivers and seas to sparkling health.

“We need a decade of ambition to pump life rather than sewage back into our rivers. Targets decades away will simply allow water company CEOs to wash their hands of their stinking problem.

Mr Tagholm said ‘thousands of people’ will be taking to river banks, streets and beaches this weekend to call for change and ‘for an end to sewage pollution’.

He added: “When an industry smells this bad, it’s hardly surprising people have had enough.”

SAS said it is collaborating with regional campaign groups including Welsh Rivers Union, Friends of Warleigh Weir and SOS Whitstable to maintain pressure on water companies who have dodged the issue for decades.

Together, they are calling for an end to the discharge of sewage pollution into UK bathing waters by 2030, along with the following demands, stronger and bolder targets to end untreated sewage discharge, an enhanced testing regime which shows a true picture of the UK’s water quality in real time, nature restoration to reduce pressure and minimise impacts on sewage infrastructure and increased investment from industry in infrastructure to prevent destructive practices.

Stuart Davies, an SAS representative for the South of England, will be heading to Worthing from his home in Brighton to protest against Southern Water.

Mr Davies said: “Brighton suffers from horrendous sewage pollution that is harmful to us, and the environment. All we hear is talk from the government, and talk from the water companies.

“We need action. It’s time to end sewage pollution.”

Toby Willison, chief environment and sustainability officer for Southern Water said: “We stand with Surfers Against Sewage and we are already delivering the improvements they – and our customers - want. Our people are swimmers, paddleboarders and kayakers too and volunteer alongside people protesting tomorrow to clean beaches. 

Mr Willison said that protecting the environment is a ‘key priority’ for Souther Water, adding they must slow the flow of excess rainwater into sewers if they are to reduce storm releases by 80 percent by 2030.

He added: “Our innovative storm water taskforce is already working on five pathfinder projects across Hampshire, Kent and the Isle of Wight focussing on natural solutions such as water gardens and swales.

“As part of our commitment to transparency, our Beachbuoy app shows in near real-time, 365 days a year, any release with the potential to affect bathing water.

“We are planning to extend this service by adding water quality data in the future. In addition, next month we will be launching the UK’s first interactive buoy off Hayling Island to monitor water quality in real time.

“Supporting and educating people about the damage that fat, oil and grease, sanitary products, nappies and wet wipes do when disposed of down sinks, toilets and drains is important. Only human waste and paper should be flushed down the toilet to avoid blockages. 

“Only 30 years ago our less than half our beaches met the basic ‘acceptable’ standard. Now 80 out of 83 of our beaches are rated either good or excellent. None are ‘poor’.”

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