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The walk was walked

And the talk was talked.

Gathering outside Witney Corn Exchange

People had seen the flyers and messages and a group gathered, ready to walk and talk about pollution and how to end it.

All images by Denis Kennedy Photography. Denis just turned up for the walk and suddenly he was our event photographer - very much how WASP functions - people combining their skills and initiative for the good of the cause.

The A40 Flyover off Avenue 2 - Emma's Dyke meets the Colwell Brook, bringing treated effluent and untreated sewage to the Windrush. Scene of many grim pollutions. This tiny stream can and does provide safe haven for fish on the edge of the industrial estate.

First stop at the end of Avenue 2 to talk about the sewage effluent, underinvestment and the Colwell Brook - the route for untreated sewage to the Windrush.

Over the Colwell Brook - running quite clear with treated effluent.

Thames Water, like all water companies, has to meet not very challenging permit standards - for suspended solids, biological and biochemical oxygen demand and ammonium/ammonia (and phosphate here) The outgoing liquid should be clear, if invisibly laden with chemicals, resistant bacteria, hormones, drugs and benignly named and highly damaging in excess; 'nutrients' - phosphates and nitrates.

My suggestion that when this mix gets involved with ordinary river water, over time, it gets murky and algae and slimy fine sediment start to appear were soon demonstrated as we walked on - specific blog coming on this.

Environment Agency slide from the days when they acknowledged the impacts now claimed to be 'natural'

Before we left, the talk turned to the shareholders of Thames Water in China and Abu Dhabi but also a lot closer to home with the Universities. Superannuation Scheme. There were a few University pensioners on the bridge and the idea of challenging the fund was in the air.

A stark demonstration of such changes can often be seen on the next section of the walk as we joined the Windrush to head upstream. There we talked about the sickening changes to this section of river.

A picture paints a thousand words and Paul Woodley's video taken in 1998 is one of the few records of how the Windrush once was - something lodged in so many memories.

The river on the day of the walk was muddy looking due to recent rain so was not a fair representation but we did have an accurate comparison last year in a dry spell.

The comparison in this clip was filmed in in May 2022 the same month as the 1998 version.

If it had not been for the rain, we may have seen a clearer river this year - possibly the result of sewer lining at Bourton on the Water reducing the lengthy untreated sewage events of previous years and the reedbed filters added to improve the horrible effluent coming out of Burford.

Thames Water agreed a recovery project with WASP in 2021and we continue to push for investment that will get results fastest.

Thames Water staff have worked hard on those interventions and we thank them for their work. If we can get all billpayers' money to go to them and into the business, not to the shareholders who have, despite the false claims of privatisation, not added any value to the process (actually the opposite), we will be in a much better state.

In the first half of the financial year Thames Water declared a profit of almost half a billion pounds - money that could and should be spent on not polluting our rivers, not dividends (or 'other payments') and bonuses.

WASP volunteers, Peter Slack and Tony Povey demonstrating 'Riverfy' invertebrate monitoring.

Looking at what's in the river and what else WASP does, as well as digging up the facts and analysing the data.

Water quality team - phosphates, nitrates, ammonia and bugs

The rain stayed off and people started talking about how they could help.

That's WASP's superb researcher, Geoff Tombs holding the logo end of the banner and the Evenlode Catchment Partnership's Eoghan Concannon at the other end.

People wanted to know what they could do.

Even though it may seem futile if politicians don't reply or send you cut-and-paste nonsense, still write to MPs and councillors - keep it simple and make the title deliver the message (in case they don't read it). The government's response to profiteering polluters in the Environment Act is wholly inadequate and has thrown away the opportunity to enforce the law in exchange for targets and 'expectations'. Pollution is staying profitable despite the hype. This has to change and has to be a voting issue for all parties.

Sewage is now at the door of number 10.

WASP's Prof Peter Hammond showed how much illegal pollution was going on with spectacular precision and got it out into the media and directly to the Environment Minister who met with him, yet now Defra is outrageously and misleadingly pretending it discovered what was being missed or even covered up.

One of the first big expose's from WASP's collection - Prof Hammond doing the regulators' job for it.

Peter Hammond's analysis turned the tables on both the polluters and regulators and that game-changing work could not have been conducted without the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004. This freedom of information law was applied to water companies after a long legal challenge by the lawyers of the Angling Trust's Fish Legal team - against water company and government opposition - now we need to protect it.

The EIR is now at risk from the proposed bonfire of environmental regulation that some in government say will set us free - pause to shudder at the thought of allowing profiteers even more scope to wreck our environment.

The same legal team that fought to bring in the transparency that exposed the sewage scandal is now running a petition to save the law and let's be very clear, our core ability to fight cheats and criminals because if anything must be clear by now it is that the Environment Agency and government were not doing that terribly well before the cats were let out of the bag by campaigners - and they are still struggling.

Please sign and share if you care about freedom, transparency of government and industry and the future of our country.

WASPS' home ground, Witney and West Oxfordshire is leading the sign-up but we will be delighted to be overtaken if that means the numbers grow high enough to make a real difference. There is a long way to go but it can be done Please share with your friends and ask them to do the same. This is vitally important to all of us.

Yes, we will be asking our MP if he will support saving the law that allowed people to fight back against criminal pollution.

Thank you everyone who turned out on that grey day - we hope you enjoyed it.



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