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Anti-sewage campaigners stage paddle-out protest on river next to Thames Water HQ

River users alarmed at water pollution caused by Thames Water sewage spills will tonight at 17:30 stage a paddle-out protest on the River Thames near to the water company’s HQ, in an action coordinated by River Action and Surfers Against Sewage.

It follows localised water quality testing by citizen scientists in the area revealing E.coli to be present in the water. The testing took place between 9th June and 19th June and found an average of 741 E.coli colony forming units (CFUs) per 100ml. This is considered just below poor water quality by the Environment Agency (which is at 900CFUs) for bathing water quality standards, indicating that sewage is present in the river near to the headquarters of Thames Water and could cause sickness.

Chloe Peck from River Action, the group that supervised the water quality testing, said, “It is ironic that the testing we’ve done on the water near to Thames Water’s HQ indicates the river there is just about safe to swim in because wherever else they operate and we have taken water samples their sewage pollution presents a major health risk.  

“Earlier this year we found extraordinarily high levels of E.coli on the Thames used for the university boat race – 9,500CFUs – and in that case rowers did get very sick. Our message to Thames Water is a simple one: take responsibility for polluting the nation’s capital river, clean up your act and invest to fix your leaky infrastructure. Meanwhile, in this General Election we urge voters to hold politicians accountable and prioritise candidates that want clean rivers. Nothing short of a total overhaul of the water regulators and refinancing of Thames Water – putting people and nature before profit – will do.”

Giles Bristow, chief executive of Surfers Against Sewage, whose End Sewage Pollution campaign is touring the nation in the run up to the General Election and helped to organise the paddle-out protest said, “Thames Water’s greedy, grasping hands are stained with the utter filth they have been spewing into this iconic river. Our waterways should be havens for wildlife and wild swimmers but these precious public spaces have been hijacked by an industry single-minded in its pursuit of profit. From the riverbanks to the beachfront, we’re hearing loud and clear that a furious British public is ready to reclaim our waterways from the polluters.

“Communities across the UK helped lift the lid on the sewage scandal and they are now demanding to know how their prospective parliamentary candidates plan to end sewage pollution. Working alongside our friends at River Action, we’re delighted to give those in Reading a platform to do just that.

“A week in to our UK election road trip, we have been blown away by the passion and pride people have for their local waterways. One thing is clear: no matter who wins the election, the public demands an end to the sewage scandal and a thriving future for our rivers and seas.”

Hustings tonight

Tonight at 1830, River Action and Surfers Against Sewage co-host a General Election hustings where candidates from the constituencies of Reading West & Mid-Berkshire and Reading Central will provide voters with the opportunity to understand how they would address water pollution on the River Thames and how their parties will solve the crisis nationally.  Attending:

  • Carolyne Culver, Green (confirmed)
  • Henry Wright or Helen Belcher, Liberal Democrats (confirmed)
  • Tony Page, former Mayor of Reading (confirmed)
  • Olivia Bailey, Labour (not yet confirmed but likely)
  • Raj Singh, Conservative (not yet confirmed but likely)


For interviews call Ian Woolverton on 07377 547 362 or email

Media can attend both the paddle-out protest and the hustings. For the paddle-out at 17:30 the meeting point is Hill Meadows Car Park, RG4 8DH. The hustings take place at the same location.