CAMPAIGNERS have warned efforts to limit sewage pollution in West Oxfordshire have come 'too little, too late' after hearing from industry experts at an open event.

West Oxfordshire District Council hosted a Water Day last Thursday, with the Environment Agency and Thames Water giving presentations on how they will clean up the River Windrush.

Campaign group Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP) also spoke at the meeting and said it was 'encouraged' by district councillors' interest in the issue.

WASP has previously blamed the fall in water quality on Thames Water allegedly overusing Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), after finding faults in the system which it says mean sewage works are overloaded.

The Environment Agency has asked water companies to improve their monitoring of CSOs, but WASP founder Ashley Smith believes more must be done.

He said: "The system has been proved to be failing terribly and the proposed actions are far too little, far too late.

"The Environment Agency and Thames Water must take their responsibilities to public health and the environment much more seriously."

The Environment Agency reported on its response to pollution in the Windrush at the Water Day.

Meanwhile, Thames Water confirmed it will invest £11.7bn to improve its network from 2020 to 2025, adding customer bills would not rise to pay for this.

Witney MP Robert Courts and several district and county councillors also spoke, while WASP compared the state of the Windrush at Witney in 1998 to today as part of its presentation.

Mr Smith compared the 'healthy' river 20 years ago to the 'grey, dirty, lifeless and depressing' water today and, while several factors cause this, he believes a lack of monitoring plays a big part.

He said: "These monitors should be the way in which WASP and others can inform the people of Witney, Burford and Standlake when untreated sewage is being released and get an idea of how bad this really is.

"Without it the Environment Agency cannot know if and when the works are illegally using the monitors."

Thames Water does not monitor all of its 650 overflows constantly, but plans to start doing so by 2020.

The company's external affairs and sustainability director Richard Aylard said: “Once we have this we will be in a strong position to invest money where it is needed to cope with the increased pressures on the system from future development across West Oxfordshire.

“Reducing pollution is a key part of our business plan for the next five years with the ambition to reduce it to zero beyond that.”

The Environment Agency also wants to increase monitoring by 2020 and another Water Day, planned for this time next year, will measure its progress.

Senior environment officer Andrew Valantine said: "We will continue to look at water quality and spill data as we get more wet weather.

"If it reveals discharges are being made too frequently or not in accordance with permit conditions, we will take further action.”