Mike's taking Southern Water to court

by Mike Deacon in Lewes, East Sussex, United Kingdom

Mike's taking Southern Water to court

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As pollution monitor on the Sussex Ouse I have seen first hand Southern Water's Criminal behaviour and I am taking them to court

by Mike Deacon in Lewes, East Sussex, United Kingdom

Since I was a little boy I fished on the river Ouse. My dad took me fishing from the age of 4 and after we moved to the Landport estate in Lewes my friends and I would walk through the woods behind the houses, down to the river to catch eels.

The river was infested with eels back then, they are very rare now.

My affinity for the river grew through the years and after I got my rod license I developed a close relationship with Jim Smith the river bailiff who taught me about the delicate and fragile ecosystem of the Ouse. In those days we caught eels, flounders, roach, bream, the occasional mullet and very occasionally we saw a sea trout.

After a stint working in London as a graphic designer, I was drawn back to Lewes to spend more time on the Ouse. It was the reason I went out to work – to earn the money so that I could do what I love, which is fishing and being by the river, lake or the sea. I particularly enjoyed the pursuit of the Ouse's magnificent sea trout. The sea trout is unimaginably beautiful, there is nothing quite like walking along the river bank and seeing a huge, beautiful silver fish jump six feet out the water, and go ‘gadoosh’ back into the water again with a huge splash.

The River Ouse flows for 42 miles through Sussex, taking in a network of 750 miles of rivers, streams and brooks, including chalk streams which are spawning and nursery streams for sea trout.

I organised a big clean-up in 2009, pulling out 28 shopping trolleys, 12 bikes and two full sized goal posts in a section of river just 30 metres by 10 metres.

Then I was invited to join the Sussex Ouse Conservation Society, as their 'Pollution Monitor'.

Over the years I worked on several serious pollution incidents, gathering water samples and photographic evidence used by the Environment Agency to enforce pollution controls.

I also tasked with collecting water samples from sites across his catchment to be analysed for water quality in the OART laboratory.

It was through this work I became painfully aware of the deteriorating water quality of the river by pollution from both agriculture and the sewage treatment plants run by Southern Water. Sewage discharges by the 34 treatment plants upstream of my stretch of the river were contributing to a deterioration of river environment for the fish and wildlife.

The results have been devastating –  increases in pollutants and sudden drops in dissolved oxygen levels and have resulted in mass fish kills, at times with thousands of dead fish covering the surface of the river.

It’s heart-breaking to see something like that and recently we are seeing it a lot more frequently.

Today there is a 75% drop in the levels of roach, bream and dace and, if current levels of pollution continue, it could lead to the extinction of sea trout altogether in the Ouse.

In recent years I have become so incensed with Southern Water’s behaviour I have withheld bill payment in protest. I don't think I should be paying them for polluting my local river. What they're doing is criminal. 

Southern Water is taking me to court to claim £2,000 of what they say is unpaid bills and now I have filed a counter claim for £3,000 for ‘failure to provide a service’ and ‘loss of amenity of the rivers and coastline due to polluting activities’.

I believe it is the first time a customer has sued Southern Water for their repeated flouting of the environmental regulations. I’m just a pensioner. I have no legal experience and I can’t afford to pay for a lawyer. If you can help in any small way with my legal fees I would be very grateful. I’m determined not to be bullied by this criminal enterprise that is destroying the one thing I love most in this world. 

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