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Sewage effluent anyone?

Sorry but you don't have a choice. We take clean water from our springs and rivers, use it in our homes and industries (drink very little of it) add an array of cleaning and laundry chemicals, hormones, bodily fluids and drugs like antibiotics, which largely pass thriough us and then? Well it goes down the toilet and sink and into the sewer to the Treatment Works.

This is where we carry on from our last blog but take a detour up the River Dikler to the Bourton Sewage Treatment Works serving a population equivalent of about 6400 people.

Above - Independent Environmental Consultant, Vaughan Lewis, casts a welcome critical eye over what we are doing.

We are going to come back here again and again in the blog because the sewage outfall has a really important and detrimental influence on the river. Above the works on the Dikler and above the confluence on the Windrush we have been recording very low phosphate levels - coming in as zero on our kit most of the time.

The photo above has our highest reading so far - about 200 metres below the works where the effluent has mixed with the river. Here we have 0.64 mg/l or well over the level regarded by Earthwatch as highly polluted. These are spot checks which vary but have been consistently high here.

We had been told for a long time that no untreated sewage gets dumped in the river at the works but WASP discovered evidence to the contrary - and that will be another story as it is a big one.

For now, let's go back to where the Windrush joins the Dikler. The Windrush is on the left with the golden gravel that was visible as far down as Witney, 20 years ago. Look at our video on Facebook if that now seems unbelievable.

Now we look to the right (below) to see the rivers merged and this is not about the river being deeper although it clearly carries more water. The Dikler, carrying the high phosphate dose, has a grey slimy coating on its gravel and a very grey tint in the water. The lighter patch is where the Windrush fades in.

On we travel, down to the upper Newbridge, not the one by the two pubs below Witney, but the one about a mile downstrean from where the rivers join, and the valley here is beautiful. There is a lot going on and plenty of damsel flies and the odd fish to be seen but the river is looking like this. Look at the photo below. There is weed but it is not flourishing like it is above Bourton, it looks like it is hanging on, Brown, clogged with diatoms(algae) and sediment.

This is very sad. We are going to get some clean input from springs soon so let's see what that does but this is grim.

There is nothing good about that massive phosphate dose from the Bourton Sewage Works but WASP is not selective with the evidence; the colour looks like it is already in the Dikler above the works and we will be following that particular trail in future posts. It is getting interesting up there.

By the way, the Environment Agency recognised the serious detrimental effect of the phosphate from Bourton Sewage Works back in 2005 and one of their reports suggested taking action.

WASP is trying to establish why nothing happened - apart from stopping measuring phosphate, it seems!

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