Sewage Spill Protest to Take Place on Penarth Beach on Saturday 20th May

New data from Surfers Against Sewage reveals the extent of anger and lack of trust in Welsh Water, as charity prepares to mobilise public in first ever mass paddle-out protest later this month.

  • A mammoth 92% of residents in Wales support a ban on bonuses for CEOs who fail to adhere to minimum environment standards.
  • Trust in Welsh Water is at rock bottom, with just a fifth (21%) of adults confident that the company is using their money to improve services.
  • In response to rising public anger, volunteers backed sewage pollution at Penarth Pier Pavilion on Saturday May 20, one of multiple events occurring simultaneously across the UK.
  • Surfers Against Sewage is demanding an end to sewage discharges into UK bathing waters and a 90% reduction in sewage discharges by 2030.

Welsh Water was responsible for 81,937 sewage overflows in 2022. On average, there were 224.5 sewage overflows a day, lasting for a total of 573, 201 hours (that’s 66.34 years!) in 1,831 different locations across their service area.

New data from charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) has revealed the extent of public distrust in Welsh Water amid ongoing outrage at the levels of pollution occurring in Welsh waterways, with just a fifth (21%) of adults confident that the company is using their money to improve services.

In response, Surfers Against Sewage, have announced a ‘paddle-out protest’ against Welsh Water on Saturday 20 May. The protest will take place at Penarth Pier Pavilion and is being organised by volunteers from Surfer Against Sewage Cymru, in collaboration with the Welsh Rivers Union and local swimming group, Dawnstalkers. Full details and updates can be found on this Facebook Event page.

The day of action will starts with Dawnstalkers dip at sunrise (5:15am) before the main demonstration begins at 11:00. The protest will feature guest speakers and bring together lots of individuals, groups & organisations in Wales concerned about the quality of our bathing waters around the UK.

The protest will take place in the water and on the shore, so swimmers, paddlers, surfers, canoers, kayakers, paddle-boarders, windsurfers and anyone who cares about the health of their local blue space can get involved and make their demands heard.

James Tennet, 36, Penarth resident, Dawnstalkers member, and protest organiser said: “In 2021, Welsh Water were responsible for more sewage discharges than any other UK water company. Despite this, the CEO received pay and a bonus packet worth £675,000. The problem just isn’t being taken seriously enough by those in power. We need to see a huge reduction of sewage discharges right across the UK. Using again infrastructure as an excuse of inaction isn’t good enough. The system needs to change, and Welsh Water needs to put the health of people and the environment first.”

Michael Goode, Volunteer Regional Rep for Surfers Against Sewage in the Vale of Glamorgan said: “As a Surfers Against Sewage rep in the Vale, I have been involved in water testing, beach cleans and monitoring of our local rivers and sea over the past few years, and the situation is getting worse not better! In 2019, Barry Island lost its Blue Flag status due to poor water quality and is unlikely to get it back due to Welsh Water flushing their untreated sewage into the sea along our beautiful coastline throughout the year.”

Kim Waters, Co-Founder at Welsh Rivers Union, and protest organiser said: “Welsh biodiversity is collapsing all around us, we need to address this now! Rivers as sewers and the coast as a cesspit is no future to hand to the next generations.”

Grant Zehetmayr, Penarth resident, Co-founder of Dawnstalkers, and protest organiser said: “We used to throw human waste out of our windows, and into the streets. Now we dilute it in the sea so it can be slowly reabsorbed invisibly polluting us at a microscope level. Just because we’ve done it like this for a long time doesn’t mean we should. We know better and must do better!”

SAS’s new data comes just weeks after data from water companies and the Environment Agency revealed that sewage was dumped into UK rivers and seas in England, Scotland and Wales just under 400,000 times last year, despite 2022 being one of the driest years in decades. Last year SAS found evidence of 143 ‘dry spills’- sewage overflows that occurred when there had been no rain for two days- indicating potentially illegal activity by water companies. The charity is calling for and end to sewage discharge into UK bathing waters and a 90% reduction in sewage discharges by 2030.