Action for the River Kennet is calling for an end to sewage pollution in the River Kennet after the duration of time and frequency that untreated sewage was pumped into the river at Marlborough more than trebled last year.
A freedom of information request to Thames Water showed that in 2020 Marlborough Sewage Treatment works tipped untreated sewage into the River Kennet for 2,872 hours, the equivalent of 119 days and nights of continuous dumping. This compares with a total of 989 hours in 2019.
This isn’t just in Marlborough. A bit further up the Kennet in Fyfield the picture was similar with more than 1,700 hours in 2020 when raw sewage was tipped directly in to the Kennet compared with 583 hours in 2019.
Water companies are only permitted to discharge sewage like this in exceptional circumstances linked to extreme weather events. However, these data show pollution occurring for more almost a third of the year.
Whilst the defence is that it’s due to the excessive level of ground water, this is not permissible and so falls outside any ‘acceptable’ excessive discharge.
Action for the River Kennet’s Director Charlotte Hitchmough said “It’s unacceptable that untreated sewage is allowed to be dumped in our rivers. It damages habitats for plants, fish and other wildlife. As the warmer weather approaches and people are thinking about enjoying time outdoors, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether it’s safe to paddle, or fish or play in the river.”
Marlborough is not an isolated case, data from sewage treatment works across the catchment paint a similar picture of persistent pollution. Data regarding other areas, in our case Ramsbury and Lambourn in the immediate vicinity will be released on Wednesday of this week (31 March).
Charlotte added: “The River Kennet is one of England’s finest chalk streams and its clean clear waters are a defining characteristic of the beautiful countryside. We want to see the Environment Agency take strong action to clamp down on sewage pollution, we want Thames Water to make more investment to prevent pollution, and we want the planning system to recognise that the current sewer network is inadequate, and to stop allowing more homes to be added to sewer networks that already can’t cope.”
She further added “We are delighted that our local MPs Danny Kruger and Laura Farris have listened to the concerns of their constituents and supported the sewage bill in parliament, and we look forward to their commitment turning into investment and into action to clean up our rivers.”