Bob Geldof backs campaign not to pay water bills over raw sewage dumping

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Irish composer, singer and actor Bob Geldof poses during a photo session in Paris on March 11, 2020. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP) (Photo by CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP via Getty Images)
Singer and activist Bob Geldof photographed in Paris on 11 March, 2020. (Photo by Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images)

Sir Bob Geldof has backed a campaign to refuse payments to Southern Water after the company was fined £90 million for discharging sewage into the sea.

Geldof was speaking at a climate change event at Faversham Assembly Rooms and said, according to Kent Online: "Don't pay your water bills to Southern Water – they can f*** off. God bless the people of Whitstable. I'm straight there to join them. In fact, I'll join them immediately."

"I can't understand why this giant utility company can't be held to account," he added. "I really don't understand it."

The non-payment campaign was started by four residents of Whitstable in Kent.

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The protest began after Southern Water was handed a record fine of £90 million after pleading guilty to illegal discharges of sewage that polluted rivers and coastal waters in southern England.

The Environment Agency said the case, the largest in its history, saw pollution offences from 16 waste water treatment works and one storm overflow. Southern Water pleaded guilty on 51 counts.

"With nature in crisis, no one should profit from undermining environmental laws," Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said in a statement this summer.

"This sentence shows fines for environmental offences are starting to reach the same level as the highest fines for crimes in financial services and that is good."

Sewage drainage or drainage pipe with leaking water
Southern Water was fined £90 million for discharging sewage. (Stock image/Getty)

Local Conservative councillor Ashley Clark wrote to Southern Water: "I have no intention of contributing to the £90 million fine recently imposed on that company for criminal activity.

"Throughout the summer Southern Water has continued to send my untreated sewerage, along with that of other local people, directly into the sea, which I use on a daily basis to swim from April to October.

"I find the thought of swimming in a mixture of local sewerage and seawater totally abhorrent and not something that I should be charged for.

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"If I paid someone to clear out my garage and take rubbish away to the tip but instead they fly-tipped it into the countryside, I would be upset. Canterbury city council prosecutes offenders for that type of activity.

"Yet Southern Water continues to fly-tip sewage into my bathing water with impunity."

Southern Water has said that it aims to cut sewage flowing via storm overflows by 80% by 2030.

A spokesperson said: "Southern Water is determined to deliver environmental improvements for our customers. We are spending £2 billion on improvements between 2020 and 2025 and we've promised to cut pollution incidents by 80% by 2025."

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