Wanting to protect Scarborough's bathing waters from pollution the Sons of Neptune began their fight against Yorkshire Water's proposal to discharge sieved but otherwise untreated sewage into the sea..
The new pumping station was to be situated on the Marine Drive directly beneath the Castle Headland and the untreated sewage was to be discharged from an outfall 600 metres long.
Assurances were given by the Water Company and Scarborough Borough Council that the currents at the discharge point would ensure that the sewage and its dangerous bacteria and viruses would be carried well away from the bathing waters. The effect of dilution, dispersion, salinity and radiation from the sun would be such that any of the pathogens returning to the bathing waters would be so few as to be harmless. Such assurances were readily accepted by most people who welcomed the proposal. But not by the Sons of Neptune.
The Sons' knowledge of local tidal drift supplemented by consultation with Dr Bruce Denness- then Professor of Ocean Engineering at Newcastle-upon-Tyne University - confirmed that from the proposed sewage discharge point a substantial volume of sewage would enter both bays continuously! It would also do so at such speed there would not be time for salinity radiation or dispersion to kill the dangerous bacteria and viruses. To make matters far worse the Sons had discovered through contact with research carried out in the US that many of the bugs which were believed to have been rendered harmless in the sea were in reality only in a state of dormancy! They could awaken and infect given the right opportunity!
Meanwhile the Water Company's plans for their Marine Drive scheme were proceeding apace. But they had overlooked a geological fault in the Castle Headland. The Sons lost no time in supplementing this local knowledge with advice from Professor Warren Pescod Head of Civil Engineering at Newcastle-upon-Tyne University. The Castle Headland scheme was soon abandoned when reality dawned! But the Water Company rapidly turned its attention to a new site.
This was located at Scalby Mills. The Sons warned against proceeding with it as once again their knowledge of tidal drift confirmed enough sewage bacteria would be returned to the bathing waters to prevent compliance with the EU Bathing Water Directive.
As fast as the Water Company were planning their new Scheme so were the Sons determined to stop it and in 1987 published their first major report "Sewage Disposal to the Sea" - see Publications. The research disclosed in the Report was submitted to the EU and led to a new Directive requiring all sewage discharges to the sea to be subject to removal of sludge. This sounded the death knell of the Scalby Mills plant before it was ever opened. The plant opened but failed to solve the problem of achieving high standards of bathing water compliance.
And now the good news - since 2001 Scarborough has benefited from a full treatment plant at Cowlam Hole well to the North of the Town - the site pointed out by the Sons at the outset and incorporating the most advanced ultra violet radiation technology.
Their 1st Campaign
It was not to be the only challenge facing the Sons in the early days of the campaign. In the 1980's the Conservative Government was planning to privatise the Water Industry so it was important that potential investors should believe that the UK had a viable coastal sewage system - which they did not. Profits were being promoted at the expense of public health! Outraged - the Sons sailed a mock public toilet equipped with raw sewage outfall pipe up the River Thames and headed for the House of Commons. The "Thatcherlooo" revealed the deception to all and Margaret Thatcher was forced to make a public retraction of her assurance that coastal sewage was treated! There is much more in Charles White's recently published book - see Publications.
And to the Future
Despite the conflict between the Sons and Yorkshire Water which has filled many newspaper columns over the years and no doubt provided addictive reading for many, there has never been any doubt that both sides have always been ready to listen to the other's arguments. Since the opening of the Cowlam Hole treatment plant the Sons have worked in cooperation with Yorkshire Water when required to monitor progress and, in conjunction with Dr Bruce Denness, have been engaged as consultants since early 2012 to help to achieve the highest "Excellence" bathing water rating for Scarborough's North and South bays. The project is ongoing.
"Spring 2012 - Making a Start"
L-R Freddie Drabble and Dr Bruce Denness meet Ed Bramley and Lee Pitcher