LOCAL activists from both sides of the Wye came together over the weekend to call out MPs who voted against a law requiring water companies to dump less sewage into waterways.

Campaigners from Forest of Dean Extinction Rebellion (XR), Monmouth-based group Friends of the Lower Wye and others mounted ‘blue plaques’ bearing MPs’ names along local waterways on Saturday (January 28).

The action was part of a national campaign to highlight the fact that MPs, including the Forest’s Mark Harper and Monmouth’s David Davies, voted against the law in October 2021.

The plaques are a nod to those installed by English Heritage in Greater London to commemorate a link between locations and associated famous people, events and buildings.

The ‘Dirty Water’ plaques bear the name of the campaign and its logo - a sewage outlet with a dead fish below it - along with the names of MPs followed by the message ‘… voted to block a law requiring water companies to dump less sewage in our water and seas 20 October ’21’.

The activists mounted plaques along the Severn at Lydney Harbour and the Wye at Lydbrook, Monmouth, Redbrook and Brockweir, as well as on the window of Mark Harper’s office in Cinderford.

Harper plaque at Lydbrook
(Forest of Dean XR)

They were joined by the Forest of Dean XR Samba Band at Redbrook where they handed out leaflets and chatted to passers-by.

The campaign seeks to encourage the public to put further pressure on politicians who voted down an amendment to the Environment Bill, which would have placed a legal duty on water companies to reduce discharges of raw sewage into waterways.

Following a public outcry, the government backtracked and proposed its own amendment, telling water companies they must secure “a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges”.

But activists said the amendment didn’t go far enough and the latest campaign seeks to shine a light on the issue once again.

Wye activist Mollie Meager said: “‘I came to Redbrook today because I am so outraged by the state of the river, where pebbles used to be visible and had teeming life around them.

“Look through the water now if you can. You will see just a sludgy dull covering on the bottom that cannot sustain life.

“I know David Davies has been shown at close hand the pollution of the river. Maybe Mark Harper has not looked even though he lives so near.

“How could he vote against a bill just requiring companies to dump less sewage in our rivers? How can profits be more important than that?

“Water is the lifeblood of all living creatures. If our rivers die then so do we.”

Local resident Rob Finlay commented: “I have lived next to the river all my life and in the last few years have seen a rapid shift in its decline.

“If nothing is done soon, it will destroy one of the biggest reasons so many people come to this area on holiday and our local economy with it.

“Not dealing with this issue is extremely short sighted and will cost more in the long run in multiple ways.

“From leisure and tourism to employment and house prices. I thought the point of designating this an area of outstanding natural beauty was so that it would all be protected.”

“Our elected MP’s should respect the will of their constituents and the area they represent. Surely they must explain to their constituents their reasons for deciding to vote against the best interests of a river that’s in an AONB and designated as a SSSI.”

Andrew Worsley of Pillowell added: “We know the River Wye is dying - i.e. all life forms in the river, such as fish, plants such as water crowfoot, etc will soon be dead, as a result of pollution from chicken farming and human sewage being released into the river by water companies.

“Nearly all other rivers in the country are in a very poor state as a result of polution being released into them, mainly by water companies. We need to treat our rivers as the life blood of the country, not as sewage disposal systems.”