Sewage discharges into the River Lambourn: report from the East Garston Flood and Pollution Forum, 17 June 2023

Thames Water sewage pipe liner & machine

As most local residents will be aware, the upper Lambourn Valley has increasingly suffered from two related problems with its sewage network: the discharge of foul water into the River Lambourn; and, in extreme cases, sewage overflowing into houses and streets. For a number of reasons, the sewerage network has become particularly overloaded in recent years. The long-term underlying problem is that of groundwater leaking into the pipes through cracks and overwhelming the system.

The last few years have seen an increasing level of popular national complaint about the problem of sewage discharge. In our area, one constructive result of this has been the establishment of the East Garston Flood and Pollution Forum (EGF&PF) by East Garston resident Martyn Wright. This not only to highlights local problems but also engages with relevant organisations to try to achieve solutions.

Here’s the latest EGF&PF report from 17 June 2023. This also includes notes from a meeting held in May 2023 attended by representatives of Thames Water, the Environment Agency, West Berkshire Council, East Gaston Parish Council and local MP Laura Farris.

EGFPF update 17 June 2023

Over the last couple of years, there has been an increased awareness of the problems of sewage dumping in our rivers in the UK, and in our case the River Lambourn.

Representatives of EGF&PF, our MP Laura Farris and our local councillors Clive Hooker and Howard Wollaston, have been pressing Thames Water and the Environment Agency for action to stop this appalling practice.

Recently, an escalation meeting was held with a Director of TW and a senior EA representative and other relevant persons to further progress the issues that had been raised. A summary of the minutes of the meeting can be seen below.

If you would like to join the EGF&PF, please contact Martyn Wright at martynwright345@btinternet.com. For more information on the EGF&PF, please click here.

The meeting on 10 May 2023

The meeting on 10 May 2023 was attended by Martyn Wright (East Garston Flood and Pollution Forum (EGFPF)); Clive Hooker (West Berkshire Council (WBC) Ward Member for Downlands); Sue Tulloch (Chair of East Garston Parish Council); Laura Farris (MP for for Newbury); her Office Manager Amanda Buttimore; Jon Winstanley (Environment Service Director at WBC); Dave Willis from the Environment Agency (EA); and Richard Aylard, Spencer Whiteley, Nikkie Hines and Shelley Hartnell from Thames Water (TW).

  • TW admitted that the event duration monitoring (EDM) data from the pumping station at East Garston cannot be relied upon when tankering is taking place from the station.
  • TW has already invested approx £290,000 in manhole sealing and lining works across the Lambourn and Great Shefford catchment that includes Eastbury and East Garston. A TW spokesperson said that although this would improve the groundwater infiltration problem it couldn’t sure it as water “will always find the weakest point to enter” the system.
  • TW said that a 350m stretch of local pipe has been identified in the East Garston area where there is thought to be a significant amount of groundwater entering the system.
  • It was also pointed out that private sewers, over which TW has no jurisdiction, also feed into the TW system. Powers do exist to compel private sewer owners to maintain their assets but these are not simple.
  • Laura Farris welcomed TW’s work but pointed out the legal obligations set out in the Environment Act and also obligations that TW has set itself: by 2030, 80% of all SSI chalk streams will have 80% reductions in storm overflow discharges, for instance, as well as promises of very substantial investment..
  • The EA defended the organisation’s role, citing “a national major criminal investigation into thousands of water company treatment works in relation to flow compliance” as well as a number of local investigations. They added that there needed to  be “a step change in terms of investment of driving down infiltration and reducing frequent spilling discharges of untreated sewage.”
  • TW agreed that “we have set ourselves an 80% reduction target and the whole company is focused on getting there.”
  • WBC said that a presentation at WBC’s Oversight and Scrutiny Commission in 2022 has been “really useful” and a TW spokesperson agreed that it would be happy to repeat this  and also visit parish council meetings “to keep conversations going and respond to the challenges.”
  • The EGFPF pointed out that the the EDM on TW’s site was “incredibly misleading” and requested that the map “show the full history of all discharges over the last six months.” It was also requested that signs be put up on every discharge pipe that goes into a river or waterway to say it discharges raw sewage.

 

 

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Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale