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Protesters take to the River Waveney to demand tighter regulation on water companies

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Alleged raw human sewage polluting the River Waveney brought protesters out on to the streets of Diss on Friday.

Members of campaign group East Angrier took to the Mere to voice their fury after waste was seen floating down the River Waveney on Sunday, January 16 – leading some to suspect that raw sewage was being pumped into the waterway.

“Our protest was sparked by reports of a foul stench and photos of unsavoury items floating in the River Waveney in Diss,” said Kate Leith, one of the organisers behind the protest.

Protesters Tom Glenton, Kate Leith, Oliver Knowland and Henry Mulborough at the River Waveney. Picture: Mecha Morton.
Protesters Tom Glenton, Kate Leith, Oliver Knowland and Henry Mulborough at the River Waveney. Picture: Mecha Morton.

“Talking to other local people, we found there is anger about the foul smell which regularly comes from the river.

“People were saying that 20 years ago, the river was so beautiful and clean. Now it’s well known that the river is not a nice place, which is just scandalous.”

The Environment Agency only permits the discharge of sewage into rivers under “exceptional circumstances” – when there is heavy rainfall.

Anglian Water, the water provider in south Norfolk, insisted that there had been no sewage discharged into the river in recent weeks.

A spokesman for the company said: “I can confirm that no Anglian Water assets have discharged into the watercourse, either on or around January 16.

“We do have teams checking our assets in the region, however, any issues in this area have not been caused by Anglian Water.”

Late last year, the Government voted down a House of Lords amendment to the Environment Bill, which would have imposed a duty on water companies to improve their sewerage systems and progressively and measurably reduce the amount of untreated sewage released into water courses.

Friday’s protesters got 54 passers-by to put their names to a letter urging South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon and Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter – both of whom sided with the Government over the amendment to the Environment Bill – to take action to place stricter restrictions on water companies pumping sewage into rivers.

“We want the MPs to ask questions of Anglian Water,” added Mrs Leith.

“Things will only get worse unless the public make it clear to these MPs and make life difficult for them.”

Earlier this month, staff at England’s Environment Agency warned that cuts to funding had rendered them incapable of deterring water companies from polluting rivers.

“If they are not going to be able to investigate these matters, the water companies will think they can get away with it,” added Mrs Leith.

Neither Mr Bacon nor Dr Poulter responded to the Diss Express’ request for comment on the issue.

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