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Sewage spill campaigners stage mass 'paddle out' protest

Protesters calling for an end to sewage spills into the country's waterways are taking part in nationwide demonstrations at sea.

Marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) organised a mass "paddle out" at 12 bathing water locations around the UK, calling on water companies to stem the tide of human waste pouring into rivers and seas.

Hundreds of protesters descended on Brighton's pebbled shore - from paddleboarders and kayakers, to swimmers and canoers.

Stuart Davies, SAS Regional Rep for Brighton, told Sky News: "We're quite literally sick of surfing and swimming in our precious blue spaces in raw sewage.

"For 30 years, the investment vehicles that own our privatised water companies have been taking money out of the system and pouring raw sewage into our waters.

"We're sick of it - we're not footing the bill."

Earlier this week Water UK - the industry body for water and sewage companies in England - apologised for repeated spills and pledged £10bn to cleaning up the mess.

There were 301,091 sewage spills in 2022, according to Environment Agency data - the equivalent of 824 a day.

SAS wants bathing waters to be protected from sewage spills, and a 90% reduction in the number of sewage discharges by 2030.

The demonstrations are the latest instalment in an ongoing row between the environment department (Defra), campaigners and water companies over the state of Britain's watercourses.

SAS's Stuart Davies said they wanted a "curb on CEO bonuses and a cap on shareholder dividends, and for them to come up with a credible investment infrastructure plan."

Further demonstrations were held in locations including Tinside Beach East, Plymouth Hoe, and Gyllyngvase beach, Falmouth, South Bay in Scarborough, Portobello Beach in Edinburgh and Penarth Pier Pavilion.

Chair of Water UK, Ruth Kelly, said on Thursday: "The message from the water and sewage industry is clear: we are sorry. More should have been done to address the issue of spillages sooner and the public is right to be upset about the current quality of our rivers and beaches.

"We have listened and have an unprecedented plan to start to put it right. This problem cannot be fixed overnight, but we are determined to do everything we can to transform our rivers and seas in the way we all want to see."

Izzy Ross, SAS Campaigns Manager told Sky News the "half-hearted" apology comes "a little too late".

The environment department Defra says it has placed the strictest targets ever on water companies to reduce sewage pollution.

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