ACTOR and comedian Steve Coogan joined a 24 hour protest in Windermere calling for the end of sewage discharges into the lake. 

Mr Coogan, who has been a prominent supporter of water campaigner Matt Staniek, told Good Morning Britain he thinks people would be 'shocked' about how much sewage goes into England's largest lake. 

Recent Event Duration Monitoring data, which is published annually by the government, revealed that 366 days-worth of sewage was dumped into the lake last year.

The Mail: Steve Coogan gives an interview on GMBSteve Coogan gives an interview on GMB (Image: Matt Staniek)

He told presenters Ed Balls and Susanna Reid while outside the United Utilities (UU) Information Centre on Crescent Road: "UU have a big PR machine and they put nice fancy offices like this and say 'we're working together with the people of Windermere' but it's all a smokescreen to distract attention from what they've been doing over the last 30 years which is putting treated and untreated sewage into Windermere to such an extent that there are toxic levels of algae there."

Mr Coogan also said UU executives have been paying out 'record dividends to shareholders' and that there was 'no excuse for this' saying that they should instead put the money into infrastructure. He raised a Lake Annecy-style solution, where all sewage discharges were stopped after moves to clean-up the French body of water. 

Chris Matthews, from United Utilities, was then challenged by Ms Reid. He said: "We share the concerns that Steve has expressed there and many other people about the overflow operations."

Water companies are allowed to discharge in times of exceptional rainfall to prevent flooding in the system.

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He continued: "We'll be investing to tackle this problem here in Windermere, we've spent £75million on our wastewater treatment to halve the amount of phosphorus that goes into the lake, we have four bathing waters in Windermere - all have an excellent status."

He said that the water company is going to invest a further £41million to reduce overflow operation by half.  

The Mail: Matt Staniek said that in the last two weeks Windermere has been placed 'front and centre' of a national debateMatt Staniek said that in the last two weeks Windermere has been placed 'front and centre' of a national debate (Image: Matt Staniek/Save Windermere)

Under further questioning from Ms Reid, he said the company invests three times what it gives out to shareholders. In response to Ms Reid saying the company has delivered £452milion to shareholders in the last year he said that it varies 'from year to year.' 

The water company claims it would take 10-15 years to build infrastructure that would support a Lake-Annecy solution for Windermere.

Another water campaigner, singer Feargal Sharkey, appeared at Mr Staniek's protest last week.

Mr Staniek has been striking every week on Crescent Road and spent 24-hours this week outside the Information Centre to mark 24 weeks of protest. 

Mr Staniek said towards the end of this week's protest: "It's exciting. What is happening in the last two weeks is Windermere has been placed front and centre on a national stage."