Hundreds of people descended on Penarth beach on Saturday, as part of a nationwide event to protest water companies polluting UK rivers and seas.
Although the waves were numbingly cold, there wasn’t a shortage of smiles or laughter; as a large crowd of surfers, canoeists, paddle-boarders, swimmers, and kayakers joined together with handmade signs and placards in a display of anger towards Welsh Water.
Organised by the charity, Surfers Against Sewage; the protest began at 5:15am with a daybreak swim. Even with the early start, the atmosphere by 11am was upbeat, as Welsh Rivers Union Founder, Kim Waters and Dawnstalkers member, James Tenet thanked the crowd before delivering their speeches and playing a passionate message from singer, Feargal Sharkey.
During his address, Mr Tenet, 36, said: “We’re focusing this protest on Welsh Water in particular, who I’m sure you’ve all seen in the news had a total of 600,000 hours of sewage discharges just last year alone, in the rivers and seas of Wales”
Although Penarth was officially given designated bathing status in 2022, Mr Tenet said the nearby sewage overflow pipe polluted the water 24 times there last year.
He went on to say: “Part of what Surfers Against Sewage want, is a stop to any sewage discharges in designated bathing waters and a 90% reduction in all sewage discharges by the year 2030, around the UK”.
Citing the situation as being critical, Mr Waters took to the microphone to state some disturbing figures on the not-for-profit water company. He said: “Welsh Water are the second-worst water company in the UK in terms of the number of hours they dump sewage into Welsh rivers and the sea”.
Acknowledging the escalating public outcry, earlier this week Welsh Water apologised for the sewage overflows and published plans to spend more than £2 billion over the next seven years to make Wales’ waters cleaner.
Pete Perry, Welsh Water’s Chief Executive, said: “We are always very sorry for any environmental harm that we cause linked to delivering our wastewater services. We absolutely understand and accept public concern about any sewage pollution impacting our rivers and coastal waters in Wales and so improving river water quality is our absolute priority. We will do everything we can as fast as we can, tackling first where we can make the biggest difference. We will not shy away from this issue.”