Raw sewage running.
No I am not standing in it! But yes, it had the very distinctive smell of sewage running rapidly downstream and away from me.
On Friday, we were in the area and, because of the heavy rain, decided to have a look for the well hidden outfall pipe from the ditches in the optimistically named 'Land Treatment Area' at Bourton on the Water.
No one is monitoring what goes out of that pipe and into the river, when it flows. Not the Environment Agency and not Thames Water - I would like to be proved wrong but it looks like it is only WASP looking at it.
We didn't plan to go there so were not equipped for the day but I had to have a look and waded in above the sewage flow -
Neither did we have our testing kit so I have no results for that day.
However, on Saturday I went back with my waders on and this time didn't notice any smell from it and the flow had reduced. We know that the worst of the untreated spills tend to happen at the beginning as the flood pushes the stuck deposits through.
However, even with no smell it was sending out phosphate reading at 0.79 mg/l on our meter and ammonia at 0.06. Although the phosphate was high, both were still lower than I had expected and testing downstream showed that there was no measurable effect on the river. It was reading zero phosphate above the outfall and zero below. Good news and we know that Thames are paying a lot more attention to the site now and have put copa sacks in to catch the worst of the big stuff.
As for the chemicals, antibiotics, human fecal coliforms and such delights coming out in that untreated mixture - we don't know, but we will introduce some testing soon.
ON THE OTHER HAND - over on the Dikler, carrying the effluent from Bourton Sewage Works the river was at six times the level regarded by Earthwatch (who do the Water Blitz surveys) as highly polluted; at 0.60 milligrammes per litre.
Our testing so far has shown Bourton Sewage Works to have a huge impact on phosphate pollution on the Dikler and then the Windrush as the two rivers meet. The Windrush goes from very good to very bad, just like that.
The Environemnt Agency recognised this and the need to act on it at least as far back as 2005 but have been unable to get Thames Water to do anything it seems, and now seem to be resigned to decline.
Is there a bright side? We may be entering a more sustainable phase in the industry's life cycle and we know there are some very interesting options being pursued in other parts of the country. Will Thames have an appetite to get a grip of a very simple problem on a very small river?