Russell Brand joins protest over sewage discharges in Henley-on-Thames

Watch: Russell Brand meets with protestors to talk about the importance of the River Thames.

Russell Brand joined protestors in Henley-on-Thames today (Saturday 5 November), where he called for water companies to clean up their act.

Mr Brand was a special guest at the 'Speak up for our river' event, organised by wild swimming group, Henley Mermaids.

The event called on water companies to reduce the amount of sewage they discharge into Britain's waterways, with a particular focus on Thames Water.

The Mermaids say the Reading based water company dumped more than 400 hours worth of sewage into the Thames in 2021, which puts waterway users at risk.

However, Thames Water refutes that claim - saying it only discharged 9 times from Henley sewage treatment works in 2021, for a total of 143 hours and all took place before June that year.

Thames Water HQ Credit: ITV News Meridian

In his speech Russell highlighted the importance of the River Thames, saying that without the Thames there is no Henley.

"We know what Henley customarily representers. Without the river, without the regatta, without this river there is no Henley.

"The entire identity is built around this river and the fact that it is used as a dumping ground...

"If I said the word that is most commonly used to describe it you'd be appalled. And yet, in reality, they pump into the river where people swim and live.

"It is an example of detachment and we need to recognise that reality."

Thames Water agreed that it is unacceptable for untreated sewage to enter rivers and a spokesperson told ITV Meridian: "We believe it is unacceptable for untreated sewage to enter rivers, even when legally permitted and we take this matter very seriously.

"We set out our position at the Environmental Audit Committee and are committed to being transparent, and we’ve published an action plan to protect and improve the environment and to provide customers with the service they expect and deserve.

“Our shareholders have recently approved a business plan that sees us spending an additional £2 billion beyond what our customers are funding so we can improve outcomes for customers, leakage and river health and we’ve also committed to a 50% reduction in the total annual duration of spills across London and the Thames Valley by 2030, and within that an 80% reduction in sensitive catchments.

"We have started the £100 million upgrade of our Mogden sewage treatment works and are currently increasing sewage treatment capacity at a number of our other sewage works across the Thames Valley, including Witney and Fairford to be completed by 2025.

“Our aim will always be to try to do the right thing for rivers and for the communities who love and value them. We are already taking action to reduce discharges of untreated sewage and welcome measures that will enable us to deliver our long-term aspirations faster to the benefit of both the communities we serve and the environment we seek to protect.”