Local protesters against the dumping of raw sewage into the River Itchen will join a national day of action called Dirty Water to highlight the shocking state of the waterways.
Members of Extinction Rebellion and Friends of Itchen Estuary will place satirical blue plaques in Bitterne Park and St Denys this morning (January 28).
The plaques highlight the government’s continued failure to tighten environmental regulations and stop profit-grabbing by water companies. In particular, the action targets the MPs who voted with the government last year to drop an amendment to the Environment Bill, which would have compelled water companies to stop raw sewage discharges into seas and rivers.
The plaques read: “Southampton Itchen, Constituency of Royston Smith, Conservative Politician, who voted to block an amendment that would have required water companies like Southern Water to stop dumping raw sewage in waterways such as the River Itchen”.
Gavin Millar a local resident and spokesperson for Friends of the Itchen Estuary says: “The Itchen Estuary is a precious open space within Southampton with huge value for recreation, for well-being and for wildlife. But it is frequently polluted by Southern Water – who dump raw sewage into the river more than 50 times every year and for a total of more than 300 hours every year. There are no warnings or online real-time information about when raw sewage is being dumped in the river – putting the health of people who sail, row, paddle, or swim in the river at severe risk of eye, and ear, and severe gastrointestinal infections.
“Southern Water, who were recently fined £90 million for illegally and deliberately dumping sewage into South Coast estuaries and seas, claim that discharge of sewage into the river is necessary as an emergency measure during storms to prevent the combination of rain runoff and sewage overloading the sewage system. But we believe this is an excuse to avoid investment in adequate sewage treatment, and to maximise Southern Water’s profits for their Australian owners.”
Corin Holloway, spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion Southampton says: “We’ve chosen this location because Southern Water is continuing to dump raw sewage directly into the River Itchen, which many people use for recreational activities.
“We want to call out Royston Smith as the MP for Southampton Itchen, which borders the river. He has failed to protect his constituents by voting down the amendment to last year’s Environment Bill, which would have obligated Southern Water to put a plan in to stop releasing sewage from its waterworks directly into the river.
“Extinction Rebellion can’t do this alone. We need everyone who cares about our rivers and seas to stand up with us and speak out. Today is just the first part of a bigger campaign to protect nature and our waterways. You can join in by visiting xrsouthampton.org and signing up to our mailing list, or signing up to https://actionnetwork.org/forms/dirty-water.”
Currently only 14% of the UK’s rivers achieve “good” ecological status with pollution from agriculture, human sewage, roads, and single-used plastics creating a dangerous “chemical cocktail” in our waterways. In December the Environment Agency announced it was pushing back targets to clean up England’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters from 2027 to 2063, prompting outcry.
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