Extinction Rebellion unveils spoof blue plaques shaming MPs over sewage vote

blue plaque unveiled in battle against water companies pumping sewage into seas

Activists have been installing satirical blue plaques across Cornwall to highlight the impact of dumping raw sewage into the sea, after Conservative MPs were ‘named and shamed’ for voting to allow private companies to continue dumping sewage along the British coast.

Members of Extinction Rebellion’s dirty water campaign unveiled the blue plaques at several locations in Cornwall including St Agnes, Perranporth, Truro and the St. Austell area.

In St. Agnes, the campaigners were joined by Surfers Against Sewage, aiming to raise awareness of water pollution and bring about legislative change.

The plaques highlight the government’s continued failure to tighten environmental regulations.

Some plaques name local MPs who voted to block an amendment to the Environment Bill, which would have forced water companies in the UK to properly clean up sewage before discharge, says Carve.

Izzy Ross, from Surfers Against Sewage, who was at the protest in St Agnes told the BBC: “We had 700 reports this year of people getting ill from swimming. Over half of those reports were from ‘excellent’ rated beaches as well, so we’re calling for an end to all sewage pollution on our beaches by 2030.”

Doctors speak out against government’s failure

Dr Colan Robinson unveiled a plaque in Charlestown with the name of St Austell and Newquay MP Steve Double. Double’s accused, like many other conservative MPs, of voting against an amendment to the law that would have required water companies to dump less sewage into waterways and oceans (and fine them if they do).

Robinson told Cornwall Live: “This plaque highlights the government’s continued failure to tighten environmental protection just when it’s most needed and stop profit-grabbing by water companies. This is in spite of its own chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, pointing out, in June last year, on the government website that sewage in water is a growing public health problem – which is staggering when you remember that separating human waste from drinking water has been one of the major triumphs of public health in the previous 200 years.

“Only vaccination has had a bigger impact on preventing disease and improving public health. Before 26 August 2022 dumping sewage was basically illegal – except in exceptional circumstances. Now, and until 2063 (as opposed to the original date of 2027), it is not. How can that be?”

Carve has put together a list of every UK MP who voted to allow water companies to continue dumping raw sewage in rivers and the sea.

“It’s an outrage that water companies have more legal protection than the precious and beautiful coast on which so many of us rely for our physical and mental health, and our livelihoods,” Dr Bill Stableforth, gastroenterologist at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust, ocean rower and volunteer lifeguard, told Cornwall Live. “We cannot accept that South West Water pays 20 per cent of our bills as shareholder dividends whilst knowingly contaminating our waterways and beaches.

“Water users around the UK are being infected by antibiotic resistant bacterial strains of E.Coli as a result. This can result in potentially very serious illness. Water companies and government are prioritising profit over the health of our families and the natural places on which we all rely. We simply cannot continue like this.”

MIN’s local MP Caroline Dinenage votes in favour of sewage discharge along south coast

Dame Caroline Dinenage is the Conservative MP for Gosport
Caroline Dinenage (third from left), the Conservative MP for Gosport, pictured during the annual New Year’s Day swim in Stokes Bay. Image courtesy of Facebook/Caroline Dinenage

Among the MPs who voted against the amendment to the Environment Bill is Caroline Dinenage, the Conservative MP for Gosport – MIN‘s local constituency.

Despite Dinenage promising to “speak up” about the issue of sewage releases, the MP is evidently failing to put these promises into action, instead choosing to vote against the crucial bill that would force private water companies to clean up their act.

Dinenage was photographed during the annual Gafir’s New Year’s Day dip in Stokes Bay — a site of numerous recent sewage releases — on 1 January 2023.

Sewage warnings have become a common occurrence in popular holiday beaches across Gosport, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Monitoring of data published by Southern Water in November showed Stokes Bay on the Solent and Chichester Harbour at Hayling Island were badly impacted by sewage releases during stormy weather, showing 173 and 174 hours of discharge, respectively, during a period of eight days.

Windsurfer leaves UK because of sewage pollution

Meanwhile, British windsurfer Sarah Jackson says she has relocated from the south coast of England to Tenerife for the winter because she was “surfing in sewage everyday”.

In November, Havant Borough Council expressed concern over pollution detected off the north coast of Hayling Island, where Jackson was training.

Jackson (pictured below via Instagram), told the BBC that the sewage in the UK was the “worst” she had encountered across Europe.

“I was living on Hayling Island in 2020 to 2021, throughout that winter, and that was when I really started to understand the situation,” says Jackson.

“So I relocated to Tenerife last winter and then I have come out here again this year, just for the winter. You break pretty quickly when you’re having to surf in sewage everyday.

Sarah Jackson who now trains in Tenerife as so much sewage in UK waters

“I need wind to be able to be in the water and invariably in winter, when it’s windy, it’s also raining – and that’s when they have free license to just throw sewage into the sea.

“The south coast is super tidal. So even if there is sewage coming out in X location, because the tides are so strong across the south coast, it’s moving that water super quick and spreading it out very quickly.

“While that slightly dilutes it because it is being spread, that just means the problem is being spread further and further.

“What I’ve learnt more recently is that almost everywhere we go, there is a problem in some level – but the level in the UK is definitely the worst we are seeing.”

Jackson believes there should be consequences for the amount of sewage companies dispose of.

“What I would love to see is greater punishments – especially this summer – as it was dry and yet there was still raw sewage being pumped.

“They are taking such big bonuses at the end of each year, such big profits; put that back in, reinvest it and actually improve the infrastructure.

“It’s the one that we can control and that would make the biggest difference.”

Disgust at sewage in sea

Dr Kawita Schur told Cornwall Live that it’s disgusting to think what’s being pumped into the sea. “The government and water companies aren’t going to clean up unless ordinary people put pressure on them. Surfers Against Sewage have been working tirelessly on this for many years, it is time to stand up with them and speak out.”

Earlier this month (Jan 2023) MIN reported that a woman who once swam regularly in the ocean between Southsea and Eastney believes she contracted Hepatitis A from dirty water at the seafront.

In November 2022, Southern Water was accused of discharging sewage into UK water for more than 3,700 hours at 83 bathing beaches in the first eight days of the month (the equivalent of five months’ worth), and in October footage was released which showed raw sewage being pumped into the water at a public beach in Cornwall.

All images courtesy of Surfers Against Sewage unless otherwise stated

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One response to “Extinction Rebellion unveils spoof blue plaques shaming MPs over sewage vote”

  1. Paul Cave says:

    It’s disgusting ! Inexcusable. All those that voted for it should truly hang their heads in shame.

    The water industry has been a shambles since pre-privatisation and privatisation was going to fix that with investment, competition, efficiencies blah blah blah blah blah.
    And now look. Infinitely worse with billions, many billions, having been taken out of the industry in dividends.

    There’s something very very wrong here….

This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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