Johnny Palmer, owner of the river island at Warleigh Weir near Bath. ‘I’m trying to make national change,’ he says. Photograph: Adrian Sherratt/The Guardian

Johnny Palmer explains how his shock over sewage discharges in the Avon turned into activism

Johnny Palmer was so determined to tackle water quality at an island beauty spot near Bath that he bought the land. He now hopes to make Warleigh Weir the first area of river in the UK to be given bathing water status to spearhead a national campaign to clean up inland waterways.

Palmer, a property investor who has swum with his family at Warleigh Weir for many years, was shocked to find out that Wessex Water is allowed to discharge untreated sewage into the River Avon around the beauty spot.

“When I was told, I was like, ‘Woah, hold on. Back up a second. Seriously?’ I didn’t realise storm water mixed with untreated sewage flowed into our river.”

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