• Ash

215886

No, it's not our new phone number, it is the total number of hours that Thames Water has reported dumping untreated sewage from its various overflows on 18,443 occasions - a shocking number from a company that was until recently claiming to do this only in exceptional circumstances to stop sewage flooding people's homes.


Despite the Environment Agency's support for that claim, WASP has been showing it to be untrue for a while now and we are finally hearing a change of tone from the company which is coming to terms with the reality as the facts emerge from the fog.


Bampton Sewage Works. The latest on the WASP radar

215,886 is an increase on the around110,000 reported last year and some of this is due to more monitors coming online - so it may get even worse in 2021 if more monitors are added.


You may have seen in the media that Defra still seems to be clinging on to the idea that it can hide its own regulatory catastrophe (it won't) but there are signs that operational Environment Agency staff who have clearly been overwhelmed and neglected by their management, are also beginning to see the truth emerging from this opaque business.


How about the Windrush Catchment for the local supporters? Here are the 2019 and 2020 figures for comparison.

Source data supplied by Thames Water

We are not convinced about Burford, and Thames Water has agreed to establish a time-lapse camera on the untreated outfall for us. They have also installed new reed beds as a tertiary treatment measure for the treated effluent (which we have regarded as not very special) and we will be shown around that improvement soon, and report back to you.



Burford Sewage Works with a Nocardia (bacteria) problem which can affect effluent standards

We were not convinced about Standlake in 2019 because it reported no spills but we found sewage fungus and sure enough, in 2020 we can see 443 hours of untreated sewage was released - at least that figure reported.


The numbers at Witney, Bourton on the Water and the other high spillers tell a tale that is often associated with high groundwater and we know from the Environment Agency that this is not a permitted reason to spill so it is illegal - but little or nothing is done to stop it (back to the Defra scandal).


The Witney sewage fungus spills from 2019 and 2020 and 2021 are in the long queue of investigation and in the meantime, nothing changes and the company continues to pollute and make a healthy profit.


More sewage fungus in the Colwell Brook at Witney

To put it simply, it has all gone horribly wrong and regulation has failed to capture the intended benefits of privatisation. Defra and the Environment Agency will have to answer for that and whilst we have been severely critical of the Agency's performance, we do recognise just how deliberately under-resourced our local team has been - although they may not be allowed to admit that.


But all is not lost and WASP is talking with the Thames Water, which is listening, and we are all looking at solutions that can be applied now rather than wait for the ship to sink.


We have seen companies like Wessex Water do great things with data provision and we hope that Thames Water will take the lead in delivering real improvement really quickly. We are due a visit from the company's CEO, Sarah Bentley, soon and we will see if she can deliver the necessary energy and commitment to make a difference.


In the meantime, WASP is working with some excellent groups across the country (you can see the social media storm building), sharing information and ideas - and you can be sure that your support is being gratefully received and effectively employed.


We will put the full spilling figures for the Thames region on the website soon.





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