August 3rd, 2023.

Water Bill payers in Lewes and the Haven area will launch a boycott of Southern Water this Sunday, the 6th of August, in protest about sewage discharges. They will gather at Splash Point in Seaford between 11.00am and 3.00pm.

The campaigners, both individuals and members of groups such as Friends of Seaford Bay and Lewes and Ouse Valley Extinction Rebellion aim to spread the word about the boycott- which involves citizens withholding payment for the sewage treatment and wastewater part of their water bills.

 At the event, there will also be information about the Splash Point sewage outfall and the effect that discharges in the area are having on nature and local people’s health. Banners will also be erected at points in the district with slogans such as ‘Sun Sea Sand and Sewage’ and ‘Southern Water Cut the Crap’.

According to current law, water companies are allowed to discharge sewage without treating it at times of heavy rainfall, to prevent material backing up into homes and business, but doing so at other times is illegal. However, data collected by Surfers Against Sewage shows that sewage is regularly being discharged into rivers and the sea even when there has been no rainfall. They consider Southern Water to be the worst offender in relation to these so called ‘dry spills’ .

Jo Rigby, a campaigner who lives in Seaford explains: ‘We are going to withhold our payments until Southern Water provide the service they are billing us for; the safe treatment and disposal of our waste water. Raw sewage entered rivers and seas in England and Wales 825 times a day last year which is totally unacceptable and unnecessary.

"As customers of a monopoly we can’t take our business elsewhere. What else can we do except stop paying for the wastewater treatment part of our bills? Despite a £90 million fine in 2021 for deliberately pouring billions of litres of sewage into the sea, Southern Water is showing no signs of changing. Why pay for a service we're not getting? Enough is enough."

Data released by the Environment Agency show Southern Water discharged sewage into waterways 16,668 times in 2022 – lasting a total of 146,819 hours. At Lewes, the Ham Lane pumping station released sewage into the Ouse 146 times last year, lasting a total of 2,419 hours, making it one of the most polluted waterways in the country.

The campaign against Southern Water is part of a wider national move by ordinary people to withol, or delay their payments for sewage treatment and disposal in protest, with increasing numbers in Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Devon, Lancashire and Yorkshire taking part.

The website www.boycottwaterbills.com gives participants guidance on how to inform the water company of their intention not to pay, and how to avoid penalties by using the water company’s complaints system.

This boycott launch comes as part of Dirty Water, an England-wide anti sewage campaign originating with Extinction Rebellion which has gained widespread support in recent months.
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