Protest over Itchen sewage as campaign bus pulls into Triangle


protest group on bridge 600px P1050020Updated The Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) election tour bus pulled into the Triangle as part of a national road trip to engage parliamentary candidates and the public, while protesters lined Cobden Bridge and took to the water.



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On Wednesday morning (June 26) drivers on Cobden Bridge beeped in support and TV camera operators pressed ‘record’ as protesters gathered in the blazing heat to make their point about sewage,

The SAS bus had just arrived at the Triangle, having previously stopped at Edinburgh, Windermere, Rishi Sunak’s constituency in Richmond and Northallerton, Gower in Wales, Reading and several other locations on its national tour.

The object is to engage public and would-be MPs in the issues, seeking their signature pledges on a surfboard to “protect the ocean”.

Former leader of Southampton City Council and now Labour’s candidate for the Test constituency Satvir Kaur was in attendance to sign the board and support the protest, along with Portswood Labour councillor John Savage.

S Kaur signs pledge 600px 20240626 114247 Southampton Test Labour candidate Satvir Kaur signs the surfboard pledge, pictured with SAS campaign manager Rob Abrams

“The Conservative sewage scandal is disgusting; it shouldn’t be happening,” said Kaur.

“I’ve personally spoken to Southern Water several times about spillage in our local rivers, and if you look up the data last year we had 800 sewage spills a day [nationally], which cannot continue, which is why the Labour Party are committed to tackling the crisis”.

She said Labour would take failing water companies into special measures, and would have better regulation with criminal charges for violations and blocking bonuses to bosses.

SAS campaign manager Rob Abrams said the public response to the tour had been “overwhelming”, but there was still a job to be done educating some candidates.

“We’ve just come from Hastings where we ran a really awesome hustings on the beach there last night,” he said.

“We’re stopping here today to join you guys in protest in Itchen, before we head off to Plymouth tomorrow … before heading back to Cornwall.”

“The response from the wider public has been overwhelming.

protest group on bridge 600px P1050020 Protest group on Cobden Bridge

“The amount of people we’ve had coming up to us and saying, it’s so important you’re doing this. The things that I have experienced at an individual level or my community’s experienced with sewage pollution, is just catastrophic.

“People have been telling us about all these horrific things that have happened to them, in terms of experiencing problems with their physical, and also their mental health – not being able to access the blue space they rely on to be able to [deal with] stress and anxiety, that so many people really rely on.

“… There’s been a lot of positive reaction. This bus has been going down the motorways, people have been beeping, all the way in support of us. It’s been amazing.”

But he said while most politicians had engaged, he’d like to hear more from candidates on “how we can actually work with nature to solve some of the issues around water quality”.

“We want to work with nature. We want to look at different solutions that incorporate biodiversity and supporting our fragile ecosystems at the same time as improving our water quality.”

testing water quality 2 600px P1050040 Gavin Millar from Friends of Itchen Estuary demonstrates water testing

Gavin Millar from Friends of Itchen Estuary (FOIE), whose group have previously reported high levels of E. Coli in the river, was demonstrating citizen water testing at the protest.

He said he’d like to see “proper investment in Portswood sewage works” as he said there had been at Millbrook and Woolston, and in particular he’d like to see UV sterilisation of effluent, “which knocks out the great majority of faecal bacteria – for example E. Coli”.

In a statement to the BBC Southern Water said that its Portswood Wastewater Treatment Works is "operating as it should, in accordance with the Environment Agency's permit, and there have been no storm overflows here recently". The BBC's full article on the protest, which includes the company's full statement, is here..

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