Little Blue Dot, a Cambridge-based climate rights group, floated emoji-style poop models down the River Cam to raise awareness about water pollution. The activists staged ‘sewage Saturday’ on 04/09 to protest the increase in untreated sewage being discharged into the river.

The poop models, displaying slogans including ‘#rivercide’, were made of mesh wire, paper, and brown paint, as shown on the group’s Instagram page. The largest model was over 1m in height. The protest began in the Cam near Jesus Green, finishing by going past the Mathematical Bridge.

Activists displayed various slogans, including ‘boaters against floaters’, ‘stop the poonami’ and ‘$[…] Anglican Water’. The group says that ‘Humour and spectacle are at the heart of our actions’.

Anglican Water’s Cambridge Wastewater Treatment Plant was involved in 10 serious pollution incidents in 2020, down from 12 in 2019, but more than the 6 serious incidents in 2018, according to the Environmental Agency’s Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA) data report.

Al Dixon, a member of Little Blue Dot, commented that the group wanted to highlight the pollution of the Cam by “Water companies [that] are pouring untreated effluent and sewage into the river because they’ve realised they can get away with it.”

Little Blue Dot said that the pollution in the Cam destructive because of the river’s status as a chalk stream: "There are only 200 chalk streams in the world, and 85% of them are in the UK. That makes us custodians of a very rare ecosystem."

A natural chalk aquifer lies below Cambridgeshire, ensuring that water filters through the layer of chalk to yield pure water. This aquifer is considered ‘over-abstracted’, or overutilized, by the increased pumping of underground water to compensate for low water supplies in the region. 

Earlier this year, PuntSeq, a research group founded in 2017 by Cambridge PhD students, monitored microbial life in different parts of the Cam. They reported finding “21 potentially pathogenic and 8 wastewater associated” bacteria in the samples, with stronger detection “downstream of urban areas.”  

Claire Preston from Little Blue Dot said: “we've reached breaking point - we must change or face the collapse of our eco-system.”

Liam Higgins, a Little Blue Dot activist, told Varsity that the biggest threat to the River Cam was “a system that merely sees nature as a source of profit, which manifests itself here in Anglian Water dumping sewage and over abstracting water.”


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He also said, “We want Anglian Water to know that we are watching. We are encouraging people to write to them after heavy rain asking how much sewage they are discharging into the river. But we also need to change the law. We need legally-enforced sewage reduction targets, tougher regulation, higher fines. The environment agency needs to be better funded - its funding has been cut by more than 70% over the last decade.”

Cathy Dunbar, a fellow activist, said that the choice to use poo models was to “catch people’s attention because of their size and because they are a recognised symbol – the emoji symbol. People would recognise exactly what they were. We also feel that humour is a way of getting people to think about difficult things, things they don’t want to think about.”