CLAIMS that Thames Water have allowed excessive sewage to spill into the River Windrush have been made by a campaign group.

Ashley Smith, 63, from Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP) said: “Untreated sewage is being discharged into the river.

“Villages and towns are suffering from inadequate sewers letting rain and groundwater in which overwhelms them.

“A lot of people have had problems with sewage backing up in their homes and they can’t use their toilets therefore tankers are taking that sewage away.

“Many of the tankers are going to Witney but Witney is over capacity now and is releasing untreated sewage into the Windrush.

“Instead of it being taken somewhere it’s being dumped into the river.”

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WASP aim to prevent untreated sewage going into the River Windrush and the contamination this causes to people and animals.

Mr Smith, a retired policeman, says that tankers are emptying the untreated sewage at Brize Norton, Standlake and Northmoor.

He explained: “This may well be illegal and we are challenging the Environment Agency (EA) to act to prevent it.

“There is sewage fungus growing in Emmas Dyke and Colwell Brook and people are letting their dogs swim in it.

“It is indefensible what they’re doing, it’s disgraceful.

A spokesperson for Thames Water said: “The volume of sustained heavy rainfall recently meant that in order to prevent flooding to people’s homes, and once all our storage capacity at the works was filled, some wastewater was allowed to overflow into the system.

“Of course this is undesirable, but we only do it when there is literally no alternative.

“It is the way the system is designed to operate and is permitted by the Environment Agency under these circumstances.”

During periods of heavy rainfall and storm conditions, the dumping of raw sewage is currently allowed because the waste water is heavily diluted by the rain water.

Oxford Mail:

Nicholas Field-Johnson, Conservative county councillor for Burford and North Carterton, said: “I’ve been working closely with WASP and we’ve asked Thames Water what they’ll be doing to stop dumping sewage in the Windrush.

“The sewage system cannot cope but dumping it into the river isn’t acceptable.

“We’ll be putting forward a motion calling on the government to ban dumping raw sewage in rivers across the country, except in exceptional storm conditions.

“The issue has to be tackled at national level.

“We have a clean beach policy, why can’t we do the same for rivers.

“I’ve noticed the difference over the last 15 years, the river is deteriorating and it’s a real pity.”

Vaughan Lewis, an independent ecological consultant, said: “There are huge problems at Standlake, Northmoor and Brize Norton, where they’re trying to protect people’s houses.

“If they didn’t take the sewage it would back up into people’s houses through the toilet.”

Liam Walker, Conservative county councillor for Hanborough and Minster Lovell, said: “It is deeply frustrating that we have a system in place where Thames Water can dump sewage into the river.

“There needs to be a change in policy and we need to hold them to account.

“We welcome the work that WASP are doing as this issue affects all the rivers in Oxfordshire.”

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Last year, WASP featured on Countryfile about the issue.

In July, the Swinbrook raft race was cancelled due to the river not being of bathing quality.

The condition of the River Windrush was raised in Parliament with former environment secretary Michael Gove by Robert Courts, former MP for Witney and West Oxfordshire in October of last year.

The issues with the river are part of a wider UK problem, as only 14 per cent of rivers in England met the minimum ‘good status’ standards according to an Environment Agency report in 2018.

Thames Water has found itself in trouble with regards to sewage treatment in the past.

In 2006, it was fined £100,000 at Witney Magistrates Court after admitting allowing sewage to pollute the Windrush, Emmas Dyke, Colwell Brook and Curbridge ditch.

And in March 2017, the firm was handed a record £20million fine after 1.9 billion litres of untreated sewage was pumped into the Thames.

Spills occurred at Thames Water sewage treatment works in Aylesbury, Didcot, Henley and Little Marlow as well as a large sewage pumping system in Littlemore.

Thames Water is the largest water and wastewater services company in the UK and has an annual turnover of over £2billion.

The group serves 15million people a day across London and the Thames Valley and recycles 4.4billion litres of sewage a day.

The firm is currently searching for a new CEO after Steve Robertson departed in May.