Around 300 people joined campaigners in Abergavenny on Saturday (April 23) in a protest march against pollution in local rivers such as the Rivers Wye and Usk.
The protest began at 11am with protestors walking along Castle Meadows before meeting in St John’s Square where a number of campaigners addressed those in attendance speaking about the damage caused to our rivers by pollution and how they themselves can help tackle the issue.
Organised by environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage and the Welsh Rivers Union organisation, the protest was aimed at raising awareness of river pollution and calling for greater action from the government in challenging polluters including water companies that have been found dumping raw sewage into rivers and waterways.
Abergavenny was one of 12 locations across the UK where protests took place against river pollution as part of Surfers Against Sewage’s first National Day of Action on Water Quality.
This comes after reports emerged last week that Welsh Water handed out performance-related bonuses of nearly seven-figures to its top three executives over the last two years - despite the fact the company pumped raw sewage into Welsh waterways 100,000 times during the last 12 months alone.
As reported in the Chronicle a couple of weeks ago, Persimmon Homes was fined over £430,000 for failing to implement appropriate measures to prevent multiple pollution incidents at a development site in Abergavenny which impacted the River Gavenny in Monmouthshire in 2019.
Untreated sewage is only supposed to be released into rivers under exceptional circumstances, but the Environment Agency says water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers more than 300,000 times last year.
Wild swimmer and campaigner Angela Jones was also present at the protest as she continues her tireless work and campaigning to protect the River Wye and Usk.
Angela has long campaigned for government to take action against water companies dumping sewage into waterways, appearing on Panorama last year where she took reporters to witness untreated sewage being dumped into the River Usk.
She has also organised several local protests along the Rivers Usk and Wye in Ross-on-Wye and Monmouth, including swimming in the rivers alongside other campaigners dragging a ‘Death on the Wye’ coffin to symbolise the effects pollution is having on our rivers.
Speaking to the Chronicle, Angela said: “It was really heart-warming to see so many people come and show their support towards what us campaigners are doing.
Nature doesn’t have a voice so it is important that we make ourselves heard, and people have had enough of broken promises and we need to bring change now if we are to save our rivers.
Wild swimmer and river campaigner Angela Jones
“Companies such as Welsh Water need to be held accountable for the damage they are causing, with money taken from fines needing to be put back into the environment and preserving our rivers and the ecosystems they support.”
Following the protest, Surfers Against Sewage posted on their Facebook page writing: “We are still on a high from the amazing turnout across the UK on Saturday to demand water companies end sewage pollution.
“A big thanks to all Ocean Activists who took to the streets, beaches and riversides for our protests in the 12 locations across the UK. We won’t let up and, together, we will win.”
The group have now organised a petition calling for the UK Government to increase the number of River Bathing Waters to 200 by 2030, with the petition receiving over 11,800 signatures so far.
For more information on river pollution and to sign Surfers Against Sewage’s petition please visit https://www.sas.org.uk/bathingriverspetition/