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But is it legal?

Bourton sewage network has been dumping untreated sewage on to land near Bourton on the Water for weeks, maybe months.

Thames Water has an Environment Agency permit to dump it on land and into the river - even to reach the groundwater - yes the groundwater. That clause was added to make groundwater pollution legal in 2018, after 25 years of not having permission.

There is a clause in the permit making it legal to dump untreated sewage due to the often quoted rainfall events or snow melt.

However, notably absent in the law, as far as we can see, is an exemption to make dumping untreated sewage due to infiltration from groundwater - which is the result of a leaky sewage system. Why indeed would a faulty system be legal?

This year we know that the Bourton raw sewage overflow has been running for weeks or even months, so that cannot be the short term emergency response to 'storm water' to stop people's houses flooding with sewage. In fact, it has been flowing so much and for so long that sewage fungus formed in the river - and for those of you who don't know what that is: fungus A slimy growth found in sewage and sewage-polluted waters. It consists of filamentous bacteria, associated with fungi and protozoa.

It formed in significant quantities up to about 40 metres downstream of where the sewage enters the river Windrush near the Diamond Way despite the dilution of the river. You may have seen that we have raised this in our YouTube videos, in newspapers and on ITV.

Next it was aired on the recent BBC Radio Gloucestershire show presented by Mark Cummings and Freya Lee. When challenged about the pollution, we heard the Thames Water representative claim that the system was working as intended and that it was legal, within the permit, even when challenged.

The long term spills are not driven by rainfall or snow melt. Thames Water has already said the long term pollutions are about groundwater infiltration and we understand with good reason that is not a valid excuse.

There is a very big and important difference between the dumping of untreated sewage being legal and the Environment Agency turning a blind eye to water industry pollution it, as it so often does.

We accept that people make mistakes under pressure in media interviews and we do not wish to single out an employee doing his job in good faith. However, if he got it wrong, we expect a correction and explanation.

WASP sent the following letter to Thames Water on 12 February and we received a very swift response to say that the Executive Chairman and team were looking into the issue.

It should not take long. There is either a clear exemption in law or there isn't.

We look forward to working with Thames Water and seeing an end to scenes like the one I just witnessed at Bourton on the Water - sewage fungus growing in the grass and pieces of toilet paper littering in a wide area around a manhole which was spilling out onto a public footpath and running into somebody's garden - so the system isn't even preventing that.



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