Extinction Rebellion posts blue plaques for MPs who voted against protection for rivers
January 28, 2023 by Extinction Rebellion
Over 80 blue plaques in the style of English Heritage’s London blue plaques have appeared on UK beaches and rivers on Saturday 28 January. The plaques hoped to highlight the decision made by UK politicians to block a law that would see better protection for rivers from raw sewage dumping. The plaques have been installed around the UK by various environmental groups including Extinction Rebellion (XR) and Surfers Against Sewage. Some blue plaque unveilings will be accompanied by actions and protests.
The blue plaques read ”The UK government voted to block a law requiring the water companies to dump less raw sewage in our waterways and seas – 20 Oct ‘21”. Some plaques in constituencies of the politicians who voted to block this law will be naming the individual MPs.
20 October 2021 refers to the date when MPs blocked an amendment to the Environment Bill, which would have forced water companies in the UK to properly clean up sewage before discharge. Instead, it was decided to incentivise them to make improvements or be fined. Since privatisation, water companies have done little to prevent sewage spills, despite making £2.8 billion profit in 2021. Last summer alone, over 90 beaches were closed to the public  after water companies discharged sewage into the waters which left beaches contaminated with human sewage. In December 2022 the Environment Agency announced it was pushing back targets  to clean up England’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters from 2027 to 2063, adding further risk to vulnerable ecosystems and precious water resources.
In Northamptonshire, six MPs including Kettering’s Philip Hollobone, voted to allow water companies to continue dumping raw sewage into waterways. Blue plaques dedicated to these MPs will be installed on Deeble Road Bridge in Kettering and two more will be unveiled in Northampton. In Shrewsbury, the group Up Sewage Creek is teaming up with XR for their local Dirty Water protest.
At St Agnes in Cornwall, XR members are organising an event with Surfers Against Sewage at 2pm on Saturday 28 January 2023 to unveil their blue plaque on the local beach. St Agnes Marine Conservation Group will be running a stall, a mass dip into the sea, and a mass surfing paddle.
Kawita Sharp, a local XR activist, said: “I am a mother, surf lifeguard and GP; I strive to keep my family and community healthy. Raw sewage dumping is a disgrace from a human and planetary health perspective; the government and industries responsible need to be held accountable for their actions”.
Etienne Stott, retired Olympic Gold Medal canoeist who still canoes on the River Trent when he can and member of Extinction Rebellion, says: “The Government will say that the level of untreated sewage in our waterways is unacceptable, but their actions show insufficient urgency. They will point to record levels of fines recently levied on water companies, but all that shows is how little action was taken and how few fines were given out in the past. Less money is being invested than is being paid out in dividends to shareholders. Both the water companies and the Government simply must do more and more quickly”.
In Morecambe, swimmers reported that they saw the sewage in the water, which had been release by United Utilities, the local water company. On Saturday a town crier will announce the pollution problems after which the local community will unveil their plaque.
Matt Panesh, a local swimmer said: “I go swimming regularly in Morecambe Bay, but I can’t when the water companies are releasing so much untreated sewage. I’m not sure which is worse, swimming in my own sewage, or swimming in that of my neighbours!”
This is the first of a series of Dirty Water actions planned across the UK. Extinction Rebellion is asking anyone who cares about our rivers and seas to join the Dirty Water coalition campaign and speak out.
Notes to editor
Images: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1zU-b9KUmIh4EJihd3GfVMYAbrpzhrSGl?usp=share_link More images will be added on 28th January 2023. Contains images of Brighton Dirty Water and Somerset Mog-Watch Blue Plaque Actions.
- About the original Blue Plaques scheme: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/about-blue-plaques/
- Environment Bill passes following lengthy battle over sewage – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-59225648
- Fury as water companies make £2.8BILLION in profits amid scandal of dumping raw sewage in rivers – https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10503873/Fury-water-companies-make-2-8BILLION-profits-amid-scandal-dumping-raw-sewage-rivers.html
- Around 90 of Britain’s beaches have suffered from sewage pollution this summer, alerts reveal – https://inews.co.uk/news/britains-beaches-sewage-pollution-summer-1811314
- Target date for cleaning up England’s waterways pushed back by 36 years – https://www.thelondoneconomic.com/news/target-date-for-cleaning-up-englands-waterways-pushed-back-by-36-years-340952/
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Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, and the societal collapse and mass loss of life that that implies. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.
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