Extinction Rebellion planning protests against water pollution in Calderdale starting tomorrow

Climate campaigners led by Calderdale Extinction Rebellion (XR) are protesting against sewage discharges into the River Calder starting from tomorrow (Friday).
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The protests, largely aimed at Yorkshire Water, begin at Eastwood Water Treatment Plant at Halifax Road, Eastwood, near Todmorden, at 11am tomorrow.

They will then hold a protest march to Hebden Bridge town centre.

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Then campaigners will be meeting at the Old Packhorse Bridge, which is in the centre of Hebden Bridge, between 1pm and 3pm on both Saturday and Sunday for more action.

Calderdale XR activists paint banner for upcoming protest. Picture: XR PhotographersCalderdale XR activists paint banner for upcoming protest. Picture: XR Photographers
Calderdale XR activists paint banner for upcoming protest. Picture: XR Photographers

The group says: “These protests are in response to the continuing sewage discharges into the River Calder, resulting in it being the second most polluted river in England.”

On the Saturday and Sunday, XR are going to be dropping a banner from the Old Packhorse Bridge and announcing a list of demands directed to Yorkshire Water, says the group, who are critical of what it describes as “ecological vandalism".

The demands include a halt to sewage discharges from waste water treatment works into the river, urging the company to increase investment into repairing and improving infrastructure, and to use money XR claims is paid in bonuses and dividends in this process.

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XR argues that according to Environment Agency data compiled by dirty water campaign group Top of the Poops, the River Calder was inundated with sewage a total of 2,954 occasions - totalling 18,051 hours in 2022 – making it the second most polluted river in England, behind only the River Severn.

In May, Yorkshire Water Chief Executive Nicola Shaw apologised in a letter to customers for sewage being discharged into the region’s rivers and said the company would invest £180 million in reducing sewage leaks from storm overflows.

She said: “We should have acted more quickly to change the situation.”

In the letter she said: “I get why people are angry – seeing sewage in our rivers and seas isn’t right.”

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Yorkshire Water said it planned to target improvements at 190 overflows which caused the most discharges.

The company said improvement work - partly funded by shareholders – would include building more storage for waste water, measures to slow the flow of rainwater before it reached sewers, and changes to operation of treatment works.

Calderdale campaigner Finn Jensen was sceptical the public would not end up footing the bill, saying: “It is a scandal that our rivers are so polluted with sewage.

“Now the water companies want us to pay for the clean-up with increased water bills for the next ten years after they have paid billions of pounds to shareholders since privatisation.”

XR says all are welcome to join the protest.