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HS2 Rebellion drops banner from Tower Bridge; demanding the government stop HS2 and protect UK drinking water

Image: “HS2 IS POLLUTING OUR DRINKING WATER #DROPHS2”  – 22-metre banner dropped from Tower Bridge, in central London this morning. Credit: @dillon.p_photography

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  • This morning activists have dropped a 22 metre banner reading “HS2 IS POLLUTING OUR DRINKING WATER; #DROP HS2” off Tower Bridge in central London, highlighting how HS2’s drilling into an aquifer in the London borough of Hillingdon risks contaminating the water supply of 3.2 million Londoners.
  • The stunt is part of a UK-wide banner drop, with involvement from movements including HS2 Rebellion, other anti-HS2 movements and Extinction Rebellion to spread the word to #StopHS2 and #DropHS2.
  • HS2 Rebellion is calling out HS2 for knowingly risking contaminating the water supply for millions of people, wasting billions of litres of water for tunnelling operations and routinely wasting water, whilst the Environment Audit Committee last year warned that the UK is running out of water.
  • The actions are designed to comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines and legislation, to which HS2 Ltd have failed to adhere.

From Cornwall to Liverpool, Long Itchington Compound in Warwickshire to Totnes Station, outside MPs homes, off bridges and churches, and posters in home windows – today, the UK is covered in banners with a breadth of messaging united against the most destructive infrastructure project in UK history – HS2.

In London this morning, a 22 metre-long banner has been dropped from Tower Bridge which reads “HS2 IS POLLUTING OUR DRINKING WATER; #DROP HS2”.

They are doing so to raise awareness about HS2’s threat to water supplies. With 2020 becoming the joint-warmest year on record [1], and the Environment Audit Committee calling for urgent government action to prevent the UK running out of water in 20 years, [2] HS2 should be halted to mitigate against our impending and current water crisis. HS2 plans to drive hundreds of deep piles into the chalk aquifer across the Colne Valley near Uxbridge for footings for the colossal weight of a 3.4km viaduct [3], which knowingly risks polluting the water supply for millions of people. For example, pile driving into a delicate chalk aquifer at Harvil Road, Uxbridge, risks contamination from a known polluted landfill site nearby, which has been leaching pollution since the 1970s [4]

Affinity Water, the water company which draws 60% of their water from this source supplying 3.2 million people highlighted their concerns that the water supply could be entirely jeopardised by HS2 works in a petition to parliament in 2013 [5]. In response the Department for Transport issued a contingent indemnity to Affinity Water, which would mean they would get a payout to cover costs incurred if the water becomes polluted [6]. Affinity Water has been left in the position of not knowing where they will be able to source alternate water from for their customers as applications to vary water abstraction licences have been recently denied. 

Sarah Green, Hillingdon Green Party and Uxbridge Resident, said:  “Water is precious. HS2 Ltd is gambling with our water by drilling into the aquifer at Harvill Road and then again tunnelling through the chalk chiltern hills. HS2 is not being transparent about how much water is at risk, how they are going to stop the pollution travelling, and where they will get alternate water from. Where will our drinking water come from? The public has the right to know what is happening. The government needs to do the right thing, stop HS2 and protect our water.”

The mid-Chiltern chalk aquifer runs from Chiltern Hills to Uxbridge, where tunnelling compromises the aquifer yet again. HS2 are gearing up to bore a 13.5km tunnel through the chalk in the Chilterns area, using an estimated 6-10 million litres of water a day to carry out the drilling – an estimated 30 billion litres of water over three years [7].  To put figures into perspective the total daily demand for water in England and Wales is 14bn litres daily. 

This will drain already desperately depleted water supplies dry. Affinity Water has told HS2 that they are unable to meet their requirements. Additionally, HS2 have not explained how they will dispose of this colossal amount of water destined to emerge as slurry which conservationists fear will result in chemicals polluting the naturally filtered water in the aquifer, affecting drinking water and the region’s chalk streams and waterways, resulting in loss of biodiversity in species rich wetlands.

Tamar Nigogossian, London resident and psychotherapist, said: My daughter and I are here today to protest HS2’s reckless destruction of her future. She’s 6, and by the time she is my age what will be left? Half-dead woodlands criss-crossed by a train that’s still not carbon neutral, habitats that have nowhere near recovered because you cannot replace ancient woodlands, depleted wildlife, polluted water and dirty air. Is that what you want for your children?

“With the climate crisis getting worse, HS2 is a criminal and immoral undertaking which puts our water sources at unimaginable risk at a time when droughts and flooding are only going to get worse. Drilling the Chiltern Aquifer risks contaminating drinking water for 3.2 million people, not to mention disrupting the delicate ecosystems of the chalk streams in the Chilterns which are a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
When will these corporations learn that there is no profit to be made on a dead planet and that they are killing our children’s futures? HS2 must be dropped.”

It’s not just about the threat to drinking water. HS2 are diverting 34 lakes through active flood zones and draining lakes which will affect surrounding areas. HS2 works will be polluting waterways up and down the line, which affects precious groundwater and wildlife. The drastic clearance of woodland is now and will continue to contribute to the flooding and drought and the climate and ecological emergency we all face [8].

Protection camps along the proposed HS2 line, anti-HS2 movements, autonomous groups, households, local Extinction Rebellion groups, and communities have also come together to support the campaign against HS2. Hundreds of groups and individuals opted for a banner, but original screen printed posters have also appeared in many towns and cities overnight as well as bus stop posters depicting HS2 as the white elephant in the room. Banners have appeared on bridges, along roads, and at major traffic junctions as well as dropped from churches, offices, homes and public landmarks.

Anti-HS2 campaginers have highlighted many of the destructive impacts caused by HS2 Ltd, from the displacement of local people and businesses and the cost to the taxpayer, to mass wildlife loss; the destruction of 108 ancient woodlands; 5 internationally designated wildlife sites; 33 Sites of Special Scientific Interest; 21 Local Nature Reserves; 693 Local Wildlife Sites; 4 Nature Improvement areas; 22 Living Landscapes and 18 Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves and protected species [9], to the alarming methods HS2’s bailiffs, National Eviction Team, are using to evict peaceful protestors.

Michelle MacDonagh, 33, a former secondary maths teacher who lived at Crackley Woods Protection Camp last year and has a fondness for painting banners, said: “HS2 needs to be stopped now, for so many reasons. It’s horrifying watching The Government continue on with the biggest natural destruction project in UK history through HS2 Ltd (a Governement department) while we are in a Climate and Ecological Emergency, using sub-par contractors to cover out work that should be done by experienced professionals and within laws and regulations. The UK tax payer is paying over £6000 each for a green-washed landgrabbing project thanks to HS2’s investment in PR firms to help them hide the magnitude of the impacts HS2 is having to people and nature across the UK now and in the future. If it ever is completed, the average person won’t be able to afford a ticket on the ‘green’ train that won’t be carbon neutral in it’s lifetime, nor will it be of any use to the people and businesses displaced along the route. It’s shocking that more MPs and public figures are not actively stopping this ecocidal project especially with the amount of public support in the campaigns against HS2, although perhaps it just shows you who’s pockets they are looking to line.”

For more photographs and information from the individuals and groups supporting this action today, please visit HS2 Rebellion and XR Art Blockers social media pages:

HS2 Rebellion

XR Art Blockers


Great Charles St Queensway, Birmingham
Oxford A40

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