Friends of the River Medway
Summary of our community meeting to address the sewage crisis
Forest Row village hall
Sunday September 4th 2022
After each sharing what brought us to the meeting, we had a wide ranging discussion, each covering big themes. We agreed that when you focus on water, you somehow unpick several connected issues; the river cuts through all these layers, and helps you think through a macro, global and local lens all at once.
This document provides a summary of the meeting that took place on 04/09/22. Participants' names have been coded to maintain confidentiality.
Projects we decided we wanted to focus on at a community level:
- RECYCLE OUR OIL TO MAKE BIOFUEL
- Southern Water wants us to keep Fat, Oil Grease (FOG) out the drains as these cause blockages which can lead to sewage spills.
- Current advice is to put the fat in the landfill. But it can be used as a replacement to diesel and fuel vehicles.
- What if we had a collection station at e.g., Tablehurst and the fat helped fuel the community farm?
- This is FORM meets Frow ReSource! Look after our river and lead us to zero waste!
- Action: P1 to take this forward with Frow ReSource
- CITIZEN SCIENCE - BECOME A SMART RIVER
- Southern Water is essentially self-regulating. The Environment Agency (EA) is no longer funded enough to regulate them effectively.
- Wildfish are an organisation dedicated to river health. They are training community groups to carry out citizen science and test water quality and track non native species. They then use this data to campaign nationally, and we have it locally to use to pressure council/MP/Southern Water/raise awareness. Data is power!
- The practical nature of it also connects volunteers to the river (and each other!)
- You need a group of 10 volunteers to train. Costs £200 per head
- Action: P2 will ask angling societies if they’re interested in volunteering for training, and find out more from Smart Rivers/Wildfish
- DON’T PAY
- If Southern Water has broken a contract with us, should we pay?
- Don’t Pay campaigns for energy are going strong at the moment
- We would need to investigate legal/credit rating consequences and be very clear with anyone who might join
- P3 to talk to P4 to get his legal opinion in first instance
- P5 to find out more about the energy Don’t Pay schemes
Other things we talked about:
- Sewage is now a voter issue
- We all want to reach beyond the converted and raise more awareness/change behaviours
- Water supply is a related crisis issue. SE England is particularly under strain. Raise awareness about water scarcity - the future of demand outweighing supply
- Changes in gardens (more concrete, higher plastic content to concrete, astroturf, decking) creating more run off, soil compaction > erosion and nutrients into rivers
- Could we become shareholders to influence water companies? Has happened elsewhere - P5 to check if its been effective
- Water needs renationalising
- Could we pilot our own village water supply? Our own waste system?
- The big picture - privatisation means global companies (banks, pensions, international corporates) making money out of our water. Residents pay money towards profits for shareholders; no investment in infrastructure.
- LOCALISATION being the answer: food, water, heath, energy, waste….
Things we can do on an individual level
- FOG - fat, oil and grease need to stay out the drains
- Phosphate free products. Do people realise that the domestos you put down the loo becomes fish food?
- Pet flea treatments - dogs polluting rivers as they swim, do they need the flea treatment? Holistic alternatives?
- Pets being harmed by pesticide runoff in the river
- Get water butts to make use of rainwater
- Install grey water systems - expensive and complex! New houses should all have them!
Image: A photo taken locally of strange looking effluent entering a tributary of the River Medway.