Protest Held Over Sewage Dumping in Local Waterways

Around 50 people walk along Wandle and Graveney rivers to highlight issue

Protestors assemble where the Wandle emerges by Southside
Protestors assemble where the Wandle emerges by Southside

February 1, 2023

Around fifty local people from environmental campaign groups have held a protest about the illegal dumping of sewage into local rivers.

The group, wearing 'poo hats', installed satirical blue plaques along the course of the Wandle and Graveney rivers to highlight the dumping of sewage into them.

In 2021, according to their own data, Thames Water spilled sewage into the Wandle and Graveney 294 times. These releases are only supposed to happen in exceptional circumstances, for example during particularly heavy storms so campaigners say that many of these charges would be illegal. Figures for last year have not been released yet.

One plaque read, “Thames Water, River Polluter- 154 sewage discharges into the River Wandle 2021” and another highlighted the 140 sewage discharges into the Graveney.

Setting off from Longley Road in Tooting, members of Extinction Rebellion Wandsworth, Friends of the Earth, the Green Party, the Wandle Trust, Garratt Park Allotments and other local environmental groups walked along the Graveney to where it flows into the Wandle. From there they continued along the Wandle to the spot where it joins the Thames, stopping at storm drains along the way where sewage has been discharged. Part of the route was through Southside shopping centre in Wandsworth as the Wandle river flows underneath it. Many passersby took leaflets, clearly themselves concerned about the levels of pollution of our rivers.

Poo hats were warn by protestors on the walk
Poo hats were warn by protestors on the walk

The River Wandle is a chalk stream, one of only two urban chalk streams in London. Only 200 chalk streams are known globally, 85% of which are found in the UK in southern and eastern England.

Local Extinction Rebellion member Lu Curtis said, “Their pure, clear, constant water from underground chalk aquifers and springs, flowing across flinty gravel beds, makes them perfect sources of clean water – and ideal for lots of wild creatures to breed and thrive. They are a haven for iconic species like the otter, kingfisher and salmon, which is why we work to protect them.”

The campaigners accuse the government of failing to tighten environmental regulations and enforcement and the water companies of paying dividends out to shareholders before investing in the upgrade of their infrastructure.

The plaque installed at the very end of the walk by the Thames Path reads, “The UK Government voted to block a law requiring water companies to dump less raw sewage in our waterways and seas. 20 Oct 21”

The UK Government voted to block a law requiring water companies to dump less raw sewage in our waterways and seas
One of the plaques installed along the route

The event was part of a national day of action across the UK drawing attention to the shockingly polluted state of the UK’s waterways. Only 14% of the UK’s rivers achieve “good” ecological status, with pollution from agriculture, human sewage, roads, and single-use plastics creating a dangerous “chemical cocktail”.[1]

Andrew Harding, also a local Extinction Rebellion member, says, “It’s disgusting, literally, to think what’s being pumped into our rivers. The government and the water companies aren’t going to clean up unless ordinary people put pressure on them. Extinction Rebellion can’t do this alone.

“There are very concrete things people can do. You can become a citizen scientist. Regular testing of water quality by citizen scientists can give early warning of pollution problems. You can also write to your MP to demand action. Above all, we need improved government regulation of the water companies.

“We need everyone who cares about our rivers and seas to stand up with us and speak out. Join us at the Houses of Parliament on 21 April and demand change.”

It is feared that sewage discharge into local rivers will increase due to climate change as rainfall becomes heavier and more frequent, particularly during winter.

Like Reading Articles Like This? Help Us Produce More

This site remains committed to providing local community news and public interest journalism.

Articles such as the one above are integral to what we do. We aim to feature as much as possible on local societies, charities based in the area, fundraising efforts by residents, community-based initiatives and even helping people find missing pets.

We’ve always done that and won’t be changing, in fact we’d like to do more.

However, the readership that these stories generates is often below that needed to cover the cost of producing them. Our financial resources are limited and the local media environment is intensely competitive so there is a constraint on what we can do.

We are therefore asking our readers to consider offering financial support to these efforts. Any money given will help support community and public interest news and the expansion of our coverage in this area.

A suggested monthly payment is £8 but we would be grateful for any amount for instance if you think this site offers the equivalent value of a subscription to a daily printed newspaper you may wish to consider £20 per month. If neither of these amounts is suitable for you then contact and we can set up an alternative. All payments are made through a secure web site.

One-off donations are also appreciated. Choose The Amount You Wish To Contribute.

If you do support us in this way we’d be interested to hear what kind of articles you would like to see more of on the site – send your suggestions to the editor.

For businesses we offer the chance to be a corporate sponsor of community content on the site. For £30 plus VAT per month you will be the designated sponsor of at least one article a month with your logo appearing if supplied. If there is a specific community group or initiative you’d like to support we can make sure your sponsorship is featured on related content for a one off payment of £50 plus VAT. All payments are made through a secure web site.