In October we wrote to Thames Water, calling for radical steps to save the Windrush - the closure of the small sewage works on the Windrush was one of those steps.
We say they are set low standards to achieve, are unstaffed, and are a liability to the company and the environment. As WASP develops its citizen vigilance and science network, the chances of the company being caught for polluting will increase.
The recent untreated sewage pollution at Witney illustrates our point even though it is by far the biggest, and we thought, the best of the seven Windrush sewage works managed by Thames Water. WASP discovered the pollution, reported it and is still monitoring it closely and recording evidence.
The Environment Agency is investigating.
We suggested pumping sewage to a modern, state of the art works where high quality effluent would contribute to a truly sustainable waste water recycling system. So would new sewer mains also picking up the off-grid septic tank households.
The response from the Thames Water Executive Chairman is reproduced below for you to read, and our call for change is added at the end in case you missed it the first time around.
There are a couple of points to make about the letter before you read on, one negative, one rather more positive.
1. The comment made about the Environment Agency ruling out discharges from sewage works and networks as a factor in the current issues in the Windrush is not at all correct in our understanding. The agency excluded untreated acute sewage pollution, not the more prolific and increasing chronic pollution from effluent. We have contacted the Agency to call on them to correct this statement.
2. The commitment to take action in the event of establishing a link between environmental impact and Thames Water's activities is a very positive and encouraging step in the right direction and demonstrates a much more enlightened attitude.
We are not naïve about that comment and we know how the industry has behaved in the past and a lot of damage has already been done. The question is this: Has the company changed, and what will the new Sustainability Directorate do now to justify that title and move forward? The offer to work together on establishing causes and the recognition that there is a problem is the first step on the long road to recovery.
At present we are identifying and challenging pollution events and the legality of some actions. We would prefer to use our energy to work with the people in both Thames Water and the Environment Agency who truly do want to do a good job and to protect our environment. It is after all, theirs as well.
Your comments on the letter and its full content are very welcome.