Sewage petition clears 100,000 barrier

A petition calling on the government to ban water companies discharging raw sewage into water courses has cleared the 100,000 signatures threshold to be considered for a debate in parliament.

The petition “Ban Water Companies discharging raw sewage into water courses” was started in April 2021 by angler Ferry Michael Harmer and reached the 10,000 signatures mark to require a response from parliament (you can read the response on the petition webpage).

When outdoor swimmer John Tierney spotted the petition, it had reached around 30,000 signatures. He decided to publicise it and attempt to gather the required 100,000 signatures before the closing date of midnight on 12 October 2021 (petitions on the government’s official petitions’ website run for six months). His primary means of communication was Twitter, which he took to with gusto – he says: “I’ve probably sent thousands of tweets on this.” He also roped in fellow swimmers from Serpentine Swimming Club in London to reach out to their own networks.

By 22 August, there were 50,678 signatures.

With a month to go on 12 Sept, there were 54,700.

With five days to go, there were still only 68,700 and on 11 Oct, 78,700 signatures.

Then something happened on the evening of 12 October. Celebratory endorsements from the likes of Stephen Fry, Deborah Meaden, Brigit Stawbridge and Chris Packham, along with people’s tendency to leave things to the last minute, resulted in signatures flooding in.

At 1pm, there were 81,000 signatures. By 7pm, it had grown to 88,600 – but achieving 100,000 by midnight still seemed impossible. Watching the signature count became compulsive viewing. At 8pm it was 94,000 and by 10pm the 100,000 barrier had been broken. The petition closed at midnight with more than 110,000.

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