Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) campaigners came within a whisker yesterday of seeing the States of Guernsey pledge to bring full sewage treatment to the island.
In a highly charged day at the Royal Court House in St Peter Port, SAS watched on as local deputies argued over the issue.
SAS had earlier started the day by making last minute representations to Ministers and Deputies outside the Royal Court House, with Halloween Surf Zombies returning to land from polluted waters urging politicians to treat recreational water users to clean water.
SAS were buoyed by the late introduction of an amendment proposed by Guernsey’s Environment Minister David De Lisle that sought full sewage treatment. This would have helped the island move away from the poor reputation it is receiving internationally due to its lack of progress on sewage treatment - a focus of SAS’s recent campaigning.
Ultimately it came down to just a handful votes (3) that saw the States put off full sewage treatment and instead invest in a few repairs to maintain the status quo of the existing outfall – one that discharges 60,000 people’s raw sewage each day into the Little Russel off St Peter Port. In fact the States could now spend up to £16 million patching up the current outfall rather than invest in upgrading the facility or building a new treatment works that can properly treat the island’s sewage to a tertiary level (full).
Despite two major reports now on the issue Guernsey seems intent on maintaining its pump and dump philosophy when it comes to sewage. They are fully aware that the current system was built in line with a report primarily aimed at developing nations, many of which have no sewage disposal facilities whatsoever. Such nations have different priorities than those in the West, needing to direct capital towards many things taken for granted in much of Europe. Guernsey is one of the world’s richest countries per head of population yet disgracefully has one of the world’s worst methods for discharging its sewage.
SAS remain intent on seeing Guernsey embrace full sewage treatment and having come so close will focus it campaign attention on 2 areas in the coming months:
1) Next year’s election in Guernsey.
2) The visitor economy.
Richard Hardy, SAS Campaigns Director says: “We are bitterly disappointed to see this issue come so close to success at yesterday’s States meeting. Many islanders will now feel they’ve not been listened to and SAS are keen for them to show this in the way they vote at next year’s election. Whilst it is clear there is much political support for an improvement in the way Guernsey treats its sewage, SAS believe it is fundamentally a lack of political will and failure to make decisions from the Public Services Department that has seen this issue stall over a 10 year period and for that reason SAS believe it is now time for Minister William Bell to resign with immediate effect”.