The Great British Run Off


Effluence upon the Jubilee River, southern England, 2022

The Great British Run Off is kind of like The Great British Bake Off, only much dirtier and you definitely wouldn’t want to eat it. Our sewage-steeped rivers and seas could be tourist attractions soon: think of the Brown Waves of the South Coast as you would think of The White Cliffs of Dover. Or, maybe open sea sewers are the ultimate dirty party trick of Priti Patel to deter people crossing into the UK on dinghies. The waters are so polluted, they’ll probably corrode the dinghy, and infect those crossing, making them think better of their trip and turn back. Bonus.

Makes you so proud to have taken back control! Of course, European regulations would never have allowed it to happen – thank the Lord we don’t have them telling us what to do! 

Instead, we had the favourite to be King Boris’ successor, Liz Truss, as the head of Defra (Department For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) over recent years. Truss oversaw ‘efficiency’ plans and stripped funding to the tune of £235m. This included a £24m cut in a grant for environmental protection, which included surveillance of water companies dumping raw sewage (Guardian). 

Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist, Dr Doug Parr, said: “A decade of budget cuts and government deregulation has left the Environment Agency, almost literally, up shit creek without a paddle. The growing tsunami of sewage unleashed on to Britain’s waterways is a shocking demonstration of how undermining our regulators leads to a disregard for nature and those meant to protect it.

“That our likely future prime minister was an instigator of cuts to the money used to protect our rivers, and so helped cause this environmental catastrophe, doesn’t bode well for the UK’s protection of the natural world. Liz Truss has sewage on her hands.” 

Indeed. She is up to her neck in it, as are we, unfortunately. It’s great that Boris Johnson has gone, but what is going to wash up on the shores of No.10 does not feel at all like an improvement. We are as mired in raw sewage as we are with bad politicians who put their own greed and financial interests ahead of ours and of our planet. Truss will not offer us any solutions beyond, ‘Close your eyes and mouth when you’re in the water.’

The solution we need is very simple: make those responsible for the mess actually responsible. Make them clean up the sewage. Do not allow them to discharge raw sewage into our waters. Sewage discharges at bathing sites were up 88% in 2020 alone, and rose by 37% last year. Newsflash everyone, this is not normal. It is not okay either, especially when water companies made £218bn in profits between 2020/2021. £15m in pay and bonuses was shared between nine water company bosses and £776m was shared between their shareholders as dividends (Mirror) Why are those profits first not being used to repair our ageing Victorian infrastructure? This was one of the major selling points for privatisation. The answer is clear – privatisation is about running a business for the good of the shareholders, not for the public it is supposed to serve.

This is absolutely criminal. You can get fined for dropping litter, but where is the punishment for the outrageous destruction of the environment? We need to make it very clear to the political parties before the next election – which wont be far away, particularly with Lack of Truss at the helm – that this matters. We expect it to be dealt with.

~ L&A 23.8.22 ~

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