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‘Shocked and outraged’ protesters call for better treatment of river

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More than a dozen “outraged” activists rallied at a town’s park as part of a campaign to tackle pollution in a chalk stream.Members of Lynn’s Extinction Rebellion (XR) took to The Walks in Lynn at the weekend to express their shock over the state of the Gaywood River – after it was revealed that raw sewage was released into the water for a total of 1,651 hours last year.Carrying yards of blue fabric to represent clear water, which they say should be flowing through the town, some 18 protesters formed a procession and talked to residents on Saturday.

Some 18 protesters took to the walks for the cause. Picture: Extinction Rebellion

It comes after an investigation was launched by the Environment Agency in February to identify the source of the pollution and later confirmed that wastewater from the works in Grimston had spilled into the stream.They said the ‘spills’ came from storm overflows, which dump untreated sewage into rivers and the sea, usually during periods of heavy rainfall to stop sewers from backing up and flooding. “We were shocked and outraged to see this going on,” said Julia Irving, one of the protesters.

Toilet paper and excrement spewing from the sewer manhole in Grimston. Photo: Gaywood River Revival

“We wanted to make sure that people living in King’s Lynn were aware of the pollution in the Gaywood River and invite them to become guardians of the river and report issues to the Environment Agency.”The issue is being faced across other areas of the UK too, as figures showed there was a total of 3.6 million hours of spills last year compared to 1.75 million hours in 2022, with Anglian Water, which is responsible for much of the region’s sewer network, having the biggest increase in spills of all England’s water companies.An Anglian Water spokesperson said they are “disappointed to see our spill numbers have increased” but added the rise in wet weather contributed to the heightened issue.

Yards of blue fabric were used to represent clear water. Picture: Extinction Rebellion

The company says it is investing £50m into a ‘spills taskforce’ for the area, with £133m to tackle spills in areas of Norfolk alone, such as at Fakenham, Horning and Norwich.“We are confident that investments we’ve been making to reduce spills have moved the dial in the right direction and spills would have been considerably higher without it,” they added. Lynn’s XR described upstream as in good health, with “crystal clear water and flourishing plant life”, while downstream it is “murky” with “plants dying off” and “algae overgrowth”.The group is now asking residents to keep a close eye and report any pollution in the river they see to the Environment Agency using their free 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60. “The Environment Agency has failed to prevent the ongoing pollution in the years we have been campaigning on this, we are calling for the Agency to finally act to protect the health of the river,” a spokesperson for XR said.“They need to name and shame, and prosecute the perpetrators of pollution.”

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