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Anger over foul sewer discharges in West Berkshire rivers leads to motion by West Berkshire Council to lobby Government, OFWAT and Thames Water

Attempts to ratchet up pressure on Thames Water to clean up its act have been approved by West Berkshire Council.

It wants a review of OFWAT – the regulator of the water industry – to determine if it is fit for purpose.

Raw sewage going into the River Lambourn in Wantage Road, Lambourn
Raw sewage going into the River Lambourn in Wantage Road, Lambourn

Newbury, Shaw, Stanford Dingley, Great Shefford, East Garston, Bucklebury, Eastbury, Lambourn and Upper Lambourn were called out as just some of the places across West Berkshire that have been affected by foul water sewer flooding for months.

“And not for the first time,” said Stuart Gourley (Lib Dem, Newbury Clay Hill) in an impassioned speech.

The Kennet, the Pang, the Lambourn, the Winterbourne, the Thames are just some of the rivers that have had to survive foul water sewer discharges for months, he added.

“This is a monumental travesty happening before our eyes,” he said. “They must be held to account.

Dead wildlife in the River Lambourn
Dead wildlife in the River Lambourn

“We must focus this anger and energy at the CEO of Thames Water. We must be angry and demand they do better for our residents, waterways and wildlife.”

Tuesday night’s full council meeting of West Berkshire Council heard that raw sewage was now in people’s front and back gardens.

“Hamstead Norreys’ dog walkers are being sprayed with sewage by passing cars,” said Carolyn Culver (Green, Ridgeway). “There is toilet paper, sanitary towels and condoms in the streets.”

The council will write to MPs, and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and ask them to urge the Government to undertake a review of OFWAT to ensure that proper regulation of the water Industry is undertaken.

The latest move to bring Thames Water to book was raised in the form of a council motion.

Mr Gourley, holds the executive pen on environment matters. He pushed the plan through saying in the first weeks of March almost 3,500 recorded hours of raw sewage was discharged into waterways across West Berkshire from Thames Water foul water sewers.

He added that many Thames Water monitors were offline, leading to the full duration of sewage discharges into our waterways being unknown.

West Berkshire Council offices
West Berkshire Council offices

“The full impact felt by residents of West Berkshire due to Thames Water failing to maintain their infrastructure across the district has been extremely significant,” he said. “The result of this infrastructure decline has been sewage floods into our roads and waterways, and in a wide range of houses, gardens, and businesses of West Berkshire residents.

“Many residents have had to live with the effects of foul water sewer flooding for over three months now, and not for the first time.”

He said the council also recognises the critical work of volunteers, charities, flood forums and campaigners across West Berkshire, in supporting and improving waterways, and for campaigning for an end to sewage discharges into those waterways.

He said the government has reduced funding to the Environment Agency by 50 per cent over the last 10 years.

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