The Sons’ heroic efforts for clean seas

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I have recently read The Adventures of the Sons of Neptune (Charles White, 2011).

This is a remarkable story written about a group of friends and their 15 year war against bureaucracy, vested interests, naive innocence, lies and deception. In 1985, Scarborough Council and Yorkshire Water proposed to dump raw sewage offshore Scarborough (one of England’s historical bathing beaches), in 2000 the proposal was dropped – solely as a result of the Sons of Neptune’s work.

If I were asked today would I swim in the sea just hundreds of metres from a raw sewage outfall I would run a mile. Yet in the 1970s as a teenager I spent a lot of my time sailing from my home in Cowes around the Solent, cruising and racing sailing dinghies. I knew there was raw sewage in the sea, I knew where the sewage outfalls were and avoided them like the plague (literally). But every now and then the forces of nature would catch me by surprise and capsize me amongst the contents of 100 toilets – I recall many days and nights erupting from every orifice after having involuntarily ingested some of this nastiness.

However, I did nothing because this was the norm, the home for sewage was in the sea – scientists, government, the public said so. How this situation came to be accepted is bizarre. Charles White states in his book that the Roman Empire was fully aware that sewage disposal needs to be far removed from people and designed their plumbing accordingly. It seems we Brits had forgotten.

It is against this back-drop that the story of the Sons of Neptune’s is most remarkable. Their 15 year fight was to turn the tide of popular opinion – including local inhabitants, environmental scientists, local and national government, law-makers, large corporations and even the European Union. The fight was bitter; the Sons of Neptune were vilified in the press – branded as non-patriotic eccentrics or liars and everything in between. They were faced with being stone-walled, ignored, lied to, and subject to depths of subversion that probably only the perpetrators were aware.

Their personal risk was significant and I applaud them for that. The Sons of Neptune displayed courage and stamina that was borne of a deep personal belief that what they were doing was the correct thing to do – in spite of public opinion. Curiously, it was the European Union that determined the Sons of Neptune were correct and subsequently applied pressure on the UK government to back down.

As a yachtsman with a young family currently circumnavigating the globe, I appreciate the achievements of the Sons of Neptune that has contributed to cleaner seas around our coastline for both us and future generations. I would highly recommend this book to those in the community facing similar situations and who believe they have the energy to try to change the world around them – Charles has given you some ammunition and inspiration to start the fight.

Tim Luker

International yachtsman and oil/gas management consultant

Wrea Green