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Thames Water: raw sewage dumped in the River Thames more than 1,900 hours in 2024 so far

Black Samphire: Stephen Fry lends voice to new folk horror film exec-produced by River Action exploring the perils of water pollution – released to mark World Water Day

Thames Water has pumped human waste into the Greater London area of the River Thames for a staggering 1,914 hours since the start of 2024 – equivalent to 79 days.

The damning finding, using publicly available data from Thames Water, is revealed by River Action in the run up to World Water Day (March 22) and the London premiere of a short folk horror film, Black Samphire, it has executive-produced exploring the perils of water pollution.

The data from 40 sites between Kingston and the mouth of the river in the east, shows that storm overflows managed by Thames Water, which is threatened by financial collapse and a possible taxpayer bailout, are almost constantly discharging untreated raw sewage into the river system.

CEO of River Action James Wallace said, “Nearly all our rivers have been polluted by water companies which, since privatisation over 30 years ago when all their debt was wiped, have adopted vulture-like business models. This has led to money from honest water bill payers ending up lining the pockets of investors with multi-billion-pound dividends and interest from debt. The water companies chose this instead of fixing their leaky pipes, investing in new sewage systems and reservoirs.

“Alongside pollution from greedy agri-business this has led to today’s freshwater emergency. We now face the spectre of ecological collapse on the nation’s rivers, loss of biodiversity and rather than thriving wildlife and pristine bathing water sites, a cesspool of stinking waterways.”

Black Samphire explores the perils of water pollution

River Action has exec-produced Black Samphire, premiering at the Brixton Ritzy Cinema on Thursday 21st March at 7.30pm. A panel discussion will follow with special guests including river campaigner Feargal Sharkey and Baroness Jones of Moulescoombe.

Black Samphire is a short film exploring the horror of water pollution through an innovative folk-horror narrative. It is a cautionary tale which examines the perils of toxic pollution entering our waterways and the consequences of ignoring the signs. By supporting the first film about river pollution to use the horror genre, River Action hopes to raise awareness of the collapse of the UK’s rivers and wildlife by reaching new audiences and showing viewers that this catastrophe is real and affects us all. 

“The real-life horror show of our polluted waterways is mirrored in Black Samphire, starring Stephen Fry, Cathy Wippell and Ishtar Currie-Wilson who cinema-goers will soon see in the new Omen prequel,” adds River Action’s CEO James Wallace.

In the film, enveloped by the dark hues and eerie sounds of a ghostly marshland, a couple find themselves drawn to the strange black samphire whose tasty leaves are tinged by the effluent of a local sewage pipe. 

A subtle, unsettling tale of insidious creeping horror unfolds; screaming darkly to an audience forewarned by folklore, and public outcry across the media of failing water companies, greedy multi-national agri-business and captured environmental regulators. While one character, Mari battles with an impatient boss (voiced by Stephen Fry), Isla retreats from reality towards an ending of unwitting violence upon the love that sustains her.

Cathy Wippell wrote and stars as Mari in Black Samphire. She said, “I am a keen open water swimmer and nowadays instead of just launching into the water, there are questions of hygiene and health to consider. That is one of the horrible things about pollution; it makes people distrust the environment they themselves are destroying.”

Noting how much she enjoyed working on Black Samphire, actor Ishtar Currie-Wilson who plays Isla said, “I think that horror has always been the leading genre in making significant and accessible cultural commentary and with our current climate crisis there has never been a more important time to bring these stories to the big screen. I would expect to see a lot more environmentally focused films within the years to come.” 

Feargal Sharkey, vocal river activist and Vice Chair of River Action, sums up the call to action, “We have been ripped off for too long. It is time for urgent regulatory reform and polluting industries to clean up their mess. We must end river pollution now.”

For interviews call Ian Woolverton on 07377 547 362 or email media@riveractionuk.com