East Garston Flood Forum

The Lambourn Valley Flood Forum, with representatives from WBC, Thames Water, the EA and village flood wardens, addresses flood-related issues in the valley. To focus attention on matters that directly affect our village – such as flood warnings, advice and sewage – the East Garston Flood Forum was established as an email communication group. It is more than simply a list of people to be advised of flood warnings. By making it open to everyone to contribute discussion and suggestions about these problems, real value can be gained by all. 

Thankfully, the winter from which we are slowly emerging (2022-23) has been flood-free. The groundwater has stayed at an average level at about 0.8m below ground level so did not cause any problems.

Recently, there has been a lot of publicity (at last!) about sewage being dumped into our rivers. The River Lambourn, protected by SSSI and SAC status, is no exception.

For many years, East Garston has suffered from flooded sewers in winter months from the ingress of rising groundwater into the old, leaking, sewerage pipework alongside the river. To ease this flooding in our streets and homes, the excess untreated sewage is routinely discharged into the river at the pumping station. Sewage also escapes into the river at Lambourn.

After continued pressure from the local Flood Forums, and led by our Ward Councillors, Howard Woollaston and Clive Hooker, Thames Water have carried out repair and re-lining work on the most vulnerable sections of their sewers. The groundwater levels last year were particularly low and did not put pressure on the system, but this year’s average levels were a better test, and it seems that no flooding occurred. So, it appears that the sewerage network has been improved, although TW are still assessing what further work will be needed. You will also be aware that the main sewer pipe adjacent to the main road is also being re-laid, and major, £6m improvements are underway at East Shefford Sewerage Works, so some progress is being made.

However, disappointingly, it took a several Environment Information Requests (part of the Freedom of Information Legislation) to get TW and the EA to admit that:

  • the sewage discharge into the river IS untreated and unfiltered (after TW had denied it).
  • the Permit that is issued to TW by EA to discharge excess sewage as a result extreme storm water flooding, does NOT include flooding from groundwater ingress (after saying it did).
  • the EA has never taken any punitive action against TW despite being aware of the discharges over many years.

As well as the obvious work of flood awareness, warning, and risk alleviation, increasingly, the work of the forums is including the issue of pollution in the River Lambourn. As you will have seen in some of the recent publicity, sewage is not the only problem facing our rivers. Run-off from manure heaps and spreading, insecticides and fertilisers, all play a part in damaging our fragile waterways and their wildlife. From personal experience here in EG, when we came here 40 years ago, it was common to see swarms of aquatic insects flying above the water with flocks of house martins, swallows and bats swooping around feasting on them. Not any more! It’s virtually barren of such wildlife.

If you would like to join the EG Flood Forum, please email me at the above address. Updates and information can also be found on the EG Parish website. East Garston Parish Council – East Garston Flood Forum (eastgarston-pc.gov.uk)

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