A CONCERNED district councillor is recruiting residents to help stop raw sewage from being dumped in the River Thames.

A letter written by South Oxfordshire councillor Jo Robb urged neighbouring councils and user groups to campaign for the urgent removal of untreated human waste in the river and its tributaries.

The letter was sent to leader of Oxfordshire County Council Ian Hudspeth and leader of Wokingham Borough Council John Halsall.

It followed data from The River Trust earlier this month, which revealed Thames Water’s sewage treatment works spilled raw sewage into the upper Thames.

According to the environmental charity this happened more than 1,300 times in 2019, for 17,000 hours in total, between Lechlade and Reading.

ALSO READ: Firefighters inspect electrical fire in Oxford

The district council is now looking to work with other authorities and local river groups to campaign for the removal of Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) that can discharge untreated human waste into rivers and streams during heavy rainfall or floods.

Even more, in her letter Ms Robb explained that the local authority also aims to acquire 'bathing quality status' for parts of the river.

She wrote : "Around the country, most notably at the River Wharfe in Ilkley and at Warleigh Weir near Bristol, there are moves to secure bathing quality water status for stretches of river where members of the public enjoy swimming.

"South Oxfordshire District Council is beginning the process of investigating how it may seek Bathing Quality Water Status for stretches of the Thames in our district."

Normally, sewage is treated to remove solid items and break down harmful contaminants.

However, water companies can bypass this if there is no alternative to avoid flooding homes and relive pressure on the system.

ALSO READ: Three teens arrested after a string of assaults

A spokesperson for Thames Water confirmed that a meeting has already been scheduled with Ms Robb for September to discuss her concerns.

They added: “We work hard to minimise storm discharges, while also looking at how we can improve the system for the future, including reducing groundwater infiltration and increasing capacity.

“We have also invested heavily in monitoring equipment to understand how frequently spills occur and help us plan improvements.

“While the technology does not currently enable us to provide real-time data to river users, it is something we are looking into for the future."

Ms Robb, who is the ward councillor for Woodcote and Rotherfield, was also appointed as Thames Champion for South Oxfordshire in June.

The councillor explained she took on the challenging post because she is passionate about tackling water quality concerns and enhance the biodiversity and cleanliness of the river system in the district.

ALSO READ: Teenage boy rushed to hospital after a major police call-out to woodland

Explaining why she is seeking to collaborate with neighbouring councils Ms Robb commented: “As you will be aware, wild swimming, paddling, kayaking and paddle boarding have grown in popularity in recent months.

"However, there is increasing concern both locally and nationally about water quality in our inland waterways.

"I would welcome the opportunity to share knowledge, and come together with a united voice to call for accurate, real-time, publicly available information on CSOs and for a change to national policy to ensure proper investment in our sewerage infrastructure and the elimination of CSOs so that our rivers are clean and safe for all."

The councillor also added that she is keen to hear from anybody with ideas or suggestions on how sustainability and biodiversity at the river could be improved, and how the river could be made easier to access for the public.

However, Ms Robb is not alone in her campaign to improve the river quality.

More than than 70 swimmers, kayakers and boaters took to Port Meadow earlier this month to protest against Thames Water leaking raw sewage into the river and its tributaries.

Dressed in colourful swimsuits and some even wearing bright pink ballet tutus, the campaigners swam at the country park.

They were holding banners and chanting slogans such as ‘boaters not floaters’, ‘water voles not toilet rolls’ and ‘Thames Water cut the crap or you will take the rap.’

To get in touch with Ms Robb and get involved in her campaign email Jo.Robb@southoxon.gov.uk