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Surfers Against Sewage are proud to announce Porthleven as the world’s first Think Before You Flush (TBYF) town.

The Porthleven community are taking positive action to protect their beautiful beaches. SAS has successfully mobilised the Porthleven community behind the TBYF campaign and now Porthleven are best placed to protect their own beautiful beaches from unwanted sewage discharges as a result of clogged sewers. SAS’s TBYF campaign is sponsorship from the Environment Agency.

TBYF is an award winning SAS campaign raising public awareness on the problems that sanitary products (known in the business as Sewage Related Debris or SRD’s) cause in the sewage system and subsequently the marine environment after they are flushed down the toilet. Porthleven, the popular Cornish harbour town, had previously suffered from a serious SRD related sewage spill in August 2011.

SAS believe Porthleven as earned the right to become the first TBYF Town. Over 65 local businesses are supporting the TBYF initiative and will be placing TBYF posters, stickers and information leaflets prominently in their premises. SAS have welcomed the backing from the both the Porthleven Town council and Cornwall Council and delivered an entertaining and engaging talk on TBYF at Porthleven school. The entire Porthleven community is 100% behind this positive campaign recognising the link between the toilet and the beach and ready to lead the country with their increased awareness around the impacts of SRD’s and promoted the necessary behavioural changes to flushing habits! Now the community are behind this important campaign Porthleven can take control over protecting their bathing waters and ensure sewage spills related to the flushing of sanitary items no longer impacts their waters again. Through the support of County Hall, this material will also be displayed in public conveniences throughout Cornwall with the aim that TBYF is then rolled out nationally, an action that will be aided through sponsorship from the Environment Agency and support from Keep Britain Tidy, Visit Cornwall and the Porthleven Town Council.

Director of Visit Cornwall, Malcolm Bell had this to say “Our coast and beaches are our greatest assets and ones that are truly treasured by 4 million visitors a year. Your help in reducing unwanted and unsightly sanitary waste on our beaches by promoting the ‘Think Before You Flush’ campaign is vital to our future success so please help us get the message through.”

On 26th August 2011, Porthleven, one of the Southwest’s premier tourist destinations and home to arguably one of the best surfing breaks in the country was hit with a 20 hour sewage overflow directly as a result of a local pump becoming clogged with sanitary waste. It was a beautiful sunny day with great waves meaning many surfers, swimmers and beach users were potentially putting their health at risk. Supporting SAS on this important campaign is Alan Stokes, one of the UK’s most high profile surfers, who is keen to help keep one of his favourite waves clean and spread the TBYF message. Alan Stokes says: “Our beaches are precious to many of us. And Porthleven, with it’s great waves is extra special to the surfing community. We can all make small changes in our behaviour to better protect our beaches from raw sewage discharges and prevent unsightly sanitary waste washing up on the next tideline. Simply think before you flush, and never use the toilet to dispose of sanitary products.”

It is estimated that over 2 billion sanitary items are flushed down the toilet every year in the UK. Unfortunately many people are mistakenly using their toilets as ‘wet bins’ to dispose of items such as wet wipes, cotton buds, sanitary towels, condoms and even razor blades. The flushing of such items has a number of serious and far reaching effects, firstly larger items cause further pressure and blockages within the already overburdened sewage system. This results in a reduction of flow, the sewage effluent backs up and then overflows causing marine and freshwater pollution incidents contributing to the growing problem of marine litter on our beaches and near shore areas. Not only is SRDs is extremely unsightly, these items can also carry harmful bacteria posing potentially significant health threat to all beach users and water sports enthusiasts. Wildlife is also at danger through ingestion and entanglement and whilst some of these items may eventually break down, many SRD items are plastic, and could remain in the marine environment for thousands of years.

The TBYF message is simple, the only things that should ever be flushed down a toilet are those that have passed through your own body and the paper you use to wipe your behind! Anything else is helping to destroy our precious marine environment and can cause serious health risks. Increased awareness and simple behavioural change can make a monumental difference. Think Before You Flush !!

EA, Environmental Monitoring Team Leader, Claudine Fontier says: “The majority of sewers in England and Wales are “combined sewers” and carry both sewage and surface water from roofs and drains. A storm overflow operates during heavy rainfall when the sewerage system becomes overwhelmed by the amount of surface water. The overflow prevents sewage from backing up pipes and flooding properties and gardens. An emergency overflow will only operate infrequently, for example due to pump failure or blockage in the sewerage system.

There are emergency/storm overflows from the pumping stations at Porthleven Harbour, Breageside, and Harbour Tank. If the sewerage system becomes blocked by sewage related debris the operation of these overflows can lead to a drop in bathing water quality at Porthleven. We are pleased to be able to support the TBYF campaign to ensure a reduction in sanitary waste disposal into the sewerage system which in turn will improve local bathing water quality at Porthleven .”

SAS intern and Porthleven resident Chris Betty has been coordinating the campaign has been extremely pleased with the business and community support stating that “Porthleven is now in position as a national leader in becoming the first town to implement sustainable achievable solutions in the management of their sewage systems to create and maintain clean and healthy nearshore waters and beaches. It is hoped that the success of this campaign in a prolific area will permeate and increase general awareness on the subject of SRDs, encouraging many other towns to follow.”

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