'Incredible turnout' as protesters demand River Waveney clean up
- Credit: Simon Buck Photography
Campaigners have vowed to continue efforts to protect a river, which is a popular swimming spot and a haven for wildlife.
Around 200 people turned out in Bungay on Saturday (May 21) as they called on politicians and a water company to do more to clean up the River Waveney.
They marched from the Bungay Buttercross and finished at Falcon Meadow, just off Bridge Street and by the river, as part of a 'Procession against Poo'.
The peaceful anti-sewage protest demanded a clean up of the River Waveney.
It comes after a recent damning report by the Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust found that no rivers in Suffolk currently met the government targets for good water quality.
The trust said it was a national target for all watercourses to achieve a "good" or "good potential" status by 2027, while the Environment Agency said "water quality and the ecological health of rivers must improve."
Councillors unanimously passed a motion committing to a series of measures - including writing to MPs and DEFRA to ask what more can be done, to work with county farm tenants and the wider agricultural sector ensuring good practice that doesn’t pollute waters, and to investigate further biodiversity efforts to address polluting run-off from roads.
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The council had been urged take action to improve its rivers and water sources by opposition councillors from the Green, Liberal Democrat and independent group.
Last month, Anglian Water said it has set out a clear plan of action to revive rivers, after new figures showed that sewage was pumped into rivers around Waveney for more than 2,200 hours last year.
Government figures showed the Earsham Street combined sewer overflow (CSO) in Bungay spilled 38 times for a total of 305 hours into the River Waveney last year; with Nethergate Street CSO, Bungay, 17 times for 10 hours into the River Waveney; and St John's Road SSO, Bungay, three times for two hours into the River Waveney.
As water companies can pump waste into rivers and the sea during heavy rainfall to stop drains backing up and flooding homes with sewage, 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.
"Central to the pledges is to ensure that storm overflows are not the reason for unhealthy rivers in our region by 2030."
On Saturday, children waving handmade placards and signs turned out among people of all ages as they called on Anglian Water to upgrade the infrastructure.
Toby Hammond, a Waveney Green Party member from Bungay, said about 200 people of all ages turned up to highlight "real concerns" about the regular discharges of untreated sewage being dumped into the River Waveney.
Organiser Mr Hammond said: "I was really only expecting 20 or 30 people, it just goes to show how strongly people feel about this issue."
With the figures showing that in 2021 there were 89 occasions when raw sewage was allowed to enter the river in Bungay, totalling more than 1,000 hours of dumping, Mr Hammond said: "Campaigners have found wet wipes and sanitary products in the river after heavy rains.
"The situation is similar up river at Diss and down river at Beccles and Lowestoft."
Waveney Rowers Against Sewage joined the procession, and also present was Bungay resident and captain of the Waveney Rowing Club Jesse Timberlake, who said: "My young children play in this river.
"I'm disgusted to think of what is being dumped in the Waveney."
Local campaigner Kate Jackson added: "Efforts in Westminster last December to get the privatised water companies to clean up their act were blocked by the government."
A Waveney Green Party spokesman Tweeted: "Incredible turnout for protest against sewage in the River Waveney in Bungay.
"Waveney Green Party was proud to attend and support the community on this issue."