Sewage in our rivers is national news. Everyone shares revulsion at what is happening to our beautiful rivers and coastal waters. Here in Manningtree, sadly, the River Stour is no exception. So, we have started a campaign to get it cleaned up and we need as many in our community as possible to help.
The Stour Estuary is the beating heart of Manningtree. It’s cherished by swimmers, sailors, paddlers, rowers, anglers, boarders, kayakers, mud tug-of-war challengers and everyone in between. A Site of Special Scientific Interest, it is an internationally important wetland Ramsar site and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is home to rare invertebrates and plants, a plethora of wildfowl, the odd otter and inquisitive seal, and two unmonitored Anglian Water Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) that discharge into the Stour less than a mile from Manningtree Beach.
Wild swimmers brave the water and suffer infections
We wild swimmers, who brave the waters throughout the year off Manningtree Beach, have long been concerned about the quality of our river. The mental and physical benefits of wild swimming, along with the strong bond of solidarity that forms between cold water swimmers, keep us coming back for more.
But many of us have suffered eye, urinary tract or ear infections after a dip. Our closest CSOs are unmonitored, so we just don’t know what is being released into our water and when. But during 2021, upstream in Dedham, a sewer storm overflow spilled 66 times for a total of 1248 hours. Disgusting!
“What gets measured gets done.”
We want to know what we’re diving into. So we are applying for bathing water designation off Manningtree Beach. If we achieve this, the government and polluters will be legally obliged to test and improve water quality during the bathing season.
Tests, grades and a campaign
The bathing season runs from 15 May to 30 September. During this period the Environment Agency must test designated bathing waters on a regular basis, usually weekly, for E. coli and intestinal enterococci. These bacteria are harmful to human health and reliable indicators of the presence of untreated sewage.
After the first year of testing, the results are aggregated to award a water quality classification ranging from Excellent to Poor. In the following years, the results are published as and when the water is tested. This information will let us decide whether we are happy entering the water. If the data shows unsafe levels of bacteria, these will shine a spotlight on polluters.
Will they clean up their act?
We have recently established a campaign group, SWiM: Safe Water in Manningtree. We’re being mentored by the national organisation Surfers Against Sewage as part of their ambition to achieve 200 designated inland bathing waters by 2030. We’re inspired by the campaigners who last year applied for bathing water status in the River Deben.
A large undertaking
We will need a lot of help with our Manningtree Beach application. We’re looking for volunteers. The application process is a large undertaking that includes public consultations, counts of water users, mapping of local facilities and drumming up the support of landowners, local authorities and other key stakeholders.
Manningtree is a tiny town that cares deeply about the environment and we’re confident that by bringing together all those who enjoy our beautiful Stour Estuary we can do it – together we are stronger.
Want to help?
We need as many people as possible to complete our water user survey. Click here and spread the word
You can also follow the link to sign up for updates on the campaign and to volunteer to assist with the application process – we have tasks big and small!