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Crown actor condemns Southern Water for raw sewage pumped into heavily protected river


Crown actor James Murray has accused a water company of “lying through its teeth” by blaming heavy rain on sewage pollution from a heavily protected river.

The environmental activist and fly fishing enthusiast, who embodied Prince Andrew in the hit drama, said Southern Water should have invested in its infrastructure long ago to prevent its sewers from being overwhelmed by extreme weather.

Instead, sewage was allowed to flow into the River Test, a chalk stream that constitutes one of the rarest habitats on Earth.

He told Sky News: “Every year they say it’s a special year and it won’t happen again. It’s nonsense. They’re lying through their teeth.

“Yes, February may have been very wet, but that doesn’t mean they should dump sewage directly into the river. That’s unforgivable.”

The Crown actor James Murray, environmental activist and fly fishing enthusiast
The Crown actor James Murray at a protest

Protests against Southern Water over sewage pollution in the River Test in Hampshire
Protests against sewage pollution in the River Test in Hampshire

Southern Water says its sewage treatment plants in Fullerton, near Andover, were overwhelmed and, to stop sewage backing up into homes, had to let it flow into the river untreated .

Current regulations allow water companies to discharge raw sewage during extreme rainfall.

But river conservation advocates say the persistent flow of human waste this winter has led to ecological damage.

Sky News saw gray clumps of ‘sewage fungus’ floating in the river’s current.

It is a gelatinous sludge of viruses, bacteria and other organisms that grows rapidly in water that is heavily polluted with nutrients. It sucks out the oxygen, choking out the life that should be in the river.

Sewage fungus caught from the River Test in Hampshire.
Sewage fungus caught from the River Test in Hampshire

Phil Parker, a river keeper who maintains part of the Test, demonstrated the impact by performing a ‘sample kick’.

He moved the river bed with his feet to collect the invertebrates living in the silt.

In a sample taken from a clean section of the river, there was a great abundance and variety of life.

But in the area affected by sewage, there was relatively little.

He said: “The samples clearly indicate that sewage is killing our invertebrates.

“It’s killing an ecosystem that’s already fragile anyway with climate change and the extreme weather we’re experiencing.”

Phil Parker, a river keeper who maintains a stretch of the River Test
Phil Parker, a river keeper who maintains a stretch of the River Test

The south of the UK recorded rainfall twice normal in February, ending a wet winter and raising the water table.

Southern Water showed Sky News video showing water being pushed at high pressure into sewer pipes through cracks and joints.

She claims to have covered the public network with a special sheath, which she compares to a sausage skin, to prevent water from entering in the future.

But work on the pipes at customers’ premises has only recently started. It may be 2030 before all the pipes are repaired.

Read more on Sky News:
How mice on a remote island feast on seabirds
The world’s oceans reach record temperatures

Nick Mills, the company’s environmental director, said: “I understand the frustration and we share many of their findings in terms of what they want to see happen.

“But this is a large and complex problem, and we find ourselves in extreme conditions right now.”

Nick Mills, Environmental Director for Southern Water.  For an article by Moore on pollution.
Nick Mills, Environmental Director for Southern Water

The country’s rivers are affected by sewage pollution.

Activists hope to take advantage of public anger to turn it into an election issue and force water companies to clean up their act.


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