Shropshire members of Extinction Rebellion went to the Severn Trent head office and held up a banner outside saying "Clean Up Your S***" as part of the group's "Dirty Water" campaign against waterway pollution.
They brought a sewage pipe, poo emojis, and bottles of "River Severn" water. Two protesters wore "Corp Rat" costumes to "illustrate the link between corporate greed and environmental destruction".
Severn Trent Water has paid out an average of £223 million to its shareholders every year since 2010. Last year chief executive Liv Garfield took home a £3.9m pay package, making her the highest paid boss in the water industry. She is currently advising the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on water, waste and biodiversity as chair of the Council for Sustainable Business.
Extinction Rebellion member Jamie Russell, from Shrewsbury, said: "Severn Trent is swimming in cash, while its customers are left swimming in ****. The decision to treat our rivers like toilets is a disaster for public health, wildlife, and the environment.
"In rivers and coastal regions across the UK, we’re seeing a corporate death machine at work. It doesn’t care about the destruction it leaves in its wake, just as long as it generates profits for shareholders. The Government needs to start jailing corporate polluters."
Fellow protestor Natasha Gurieva, also from Shrewsbury, said: "People in Shrewsbury are watching the death of the Severn happening right in front of their eyes. Anglers are catching more tampons than fish; swimmers and canoeists are getting sick from ingesting the water; and the town’s tourism industry is suffering.
"If the Government won’t put proper laws in place to protect the environment and make polluters pay, ordinary people have to protest. I won’t be a bystander while the planet is being trashed by huge corporations."
A Severn Trent spokesperson said: “Whilst we fully respect the right to peacefully protest, the claims made do not reflect the performance, progress or investment being made by the business to protect our region's rivers.
"Since privatisation Severn Trent has invested £25 billion in infrastructure and is investing £100 million each year to improve rivers. We’re proud to be sector leaders including hitting 100 per cent of environmental targets and being recognised with the highest 4* status from the Environment Agency.
"Other sectors are responsible for 85 per cent of reasons for watercourses not achieving good ecological status across in our region, with 16 per cent within the control of Severn Trent, and we’ve made a commitment that this will be down to zero by 2030.”