Sick of sewage – ocean activists take to the streets over sewage pollution in Cornwall

SAS protester with a mask and surf board, a nod to one of the group’s first actions | Jory Mundy

On Saturday the 23 April, hundreds of protesters gathered in Newquay in protest against Southwest Water and the illegal dumping of sewage into rivers and oceans whilst demanding an end to water pollution by 2030. The event organised by local group Surfers Against Sewage was one of 12 events across the UK that took place on the National Day of Action on Water Quality, just a day after Earth Day.

Protesters began to gather at Fistral Beach in Newquay around 1 PM with Surfers Against Sewage, a samba band and other groups supporting the march through the main street arriving at Killacourt for speeches just after 2 PM.

Speakers at the event included: One Show Journalist Lucy Siegal, Paralympic surf medallist Melissa Reid, Amy Slack from SAS and poems from the Sprout Spoken Collective. Melissa gave an emotional speech about her experiences during the pandemic and the difficulty of seeing sewage in the ocean as a visually impaired person whilst swimming alone during lockdown. Others spoke about the lack of action from the UK government and CEOs with one poet sharing a message to her future husband about the issues of pollution and how they can fix it.

One poet from the Sprout Spoken Collective | Jory Mundy

Surfers against Sewage’s campaign aims to see an end to sewage pollution by 2030, with the government implementing stronger targets to end untreated sewage discharge, an enhanced testing regime showing water quality in real-time, a plan to reduce pressure and minimise impacts of sewage on infrastructure, and increased investment in infrastructure to prevent further destruction.

Back in October, an amendment to the Environmental Bill was presented to parliament by the House of Lords which would require water companies to reduce sewage discharge at all coasts. Parliament rejected the amendment with only one Cornish MP, Derek Thomas, voting in support of it. Thomas stated that “West Cornwall is surrounded by the sea, and no one wants to see it polluted.” Presently, water companies can still, and are increasingly, dumping sewage into oceans and rivers.

The march from Fistral Beach heading into Newquay town center | Jory Mundy

According to a recent report from the Environmental Agency, South West water was responsible for dumping raw sewage into UK rivers and oceans over 42,000 times during 2021. Ocean activists such as those from SAS say the government are not doing enough to protect our waters, swimmers and marine life.