MP backs calls for clean up of River Waveney amid sewage fears

Caroline Lucas visits River Waveney, with Toby Hammond 

Caroline Lucas visits River Waveney, with Toby Hammond. - Credit: Alex Hammond

An MP has met campaigners who are leading calls to protect a river that is a popular swimming spot and a haven for wildlife.

After 200 people turned out in Bungay last month to carry out a peaceful anti-sewage protest, they called on politicians and a water company to do more to clean up the River Waveney.

And on Thursday afternoon (June 23) Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, donned a pair of waders as she went in the River Waveney during a visit to Bungay.

Seeing at first hand the evidence of sewage pollution in the river, the Brighton Pavilion MP called on Anglian Water to upgrade sewers and stop dumping sewage into the Waveney after visiting one of the sewer overflow pipes just beneath the bridge on Earsham Street.

The company admitted the storm overflows were "no longer an appropriate way" of managing sewers and vowed to "do more."

Mrs Lucas, former leader and co-leader of the Green Party, said: "Bungay is lucky to have such a beautiful river teeming with wildlife, and it was lovely to see children swimming and playing on this hot summer's day.

Caroline Lucas River Waveney Toby Hammond 

Caroline Lucas visits River Waveney, with Toby Hammond holding (on a stick) one of the many wet-wipes that have ended up in the river. - Credit: Alex Hammond

"But beneath the surface all is not well.

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"Dumping of raw sewage into the river has got to stop, and I call on Anglian Water to finally upgrade the sewers and consign this practice to history."

With locals showing her piles of wet wipes in the river just downstream of the pipe, Toby Hammond, one of the organisers of the ‘Procession Against Poo’ protest held in May, said that the problem has continued during the summer as the river becomes busy with boaters, paddleboarders and swimmers.

Caroline Lucas visits River Waveney, with Toby Hammond and campaigners looking on

Caroline Lucas visits River Waveney, with Toby Hammond and campaigners looking on. - Credit: Alex Hammond

Mr Hammond said: “We’ve had rains on a couple of occasions in recent weeks, and after each one people have been sending me pictures of various unmentionable things emerging into the river."

In April, Anglian Water said it had set out a clear plan of action to revive rivers, after figures showed that sewage was pumped into rivers around Waveney for more than 2,200 hours last year.

At the time, the water company said: "As part of our recently launched Get River Positive commitment we’ve set out a clear plan and demonstrable action."

Last month, Suffolk County Council chiefs pledged to look into doing more to tackle river pollution.

Campaigners during the visit of Caroline Lucas to Bungay and the River Waveney.

Campaigners during the visit of Caroline Lucas to Bungay and the River Waveney. - Credit: Alex Hammond

Now, locals are looking into the possibility of applying for Bathing Water Status for a stretch of Bungay’s river.

'No longer appropriate'

A spokesperson for Anglian Water said: "We have a number of pumping stations at Falcon Meadows near the River Waveney at Bungay.

"They are all operating within their permits, with no storm spills recorded during the recent dry spell of weather.

"However, we agree that storm overflows are no longer an appropriate way of dealing with overloaded sewers during heavy rainfall, and we need to do more.

"We are already investing more than £200 million to reduce storm spills between now and 2025, in places where it will have the most benefit to the environment.

"Not only this but our recent Get River Positive pledges mean that we’re committed to ensuring storm overflows and sewage treatment works will not be the reason for unhealthy rivers by the end of the decade.”