CAMPAIGNERS and an MP have slammed the condition of an Oxfordshire river.

It comes following a ‘WaterBlitz’ at the weekend, which saw citizen scientists collect nitrate and phosphate measurements from the River Evenlode.

Vaughan Lewis, an indepedent environmental consultant, said overflowing storm sewers in Chipping Norton, Church Hanborough and Milton-under-Wychwood had seen ‘diluted but untreated sewage’ flowing into the Evenlode.

He said the spills had continued for up to 80 days.

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“It’s a massive scandal, this sewage is untreated with high levels of E. coli,” he said.

“The other thing happening is that huge amounts of phosphates are ending up in the river, changing its ecology, and not in a good way.”

Mr Lewis estimates that 80 per cent of these phosphates come from sewage.

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A spokesperson for Thames Water said sewage discharges were not the only source of pollution.

He 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’ve also invested heavily in monitoring equipment to understand how frequently spills occur and help us plan improvements.

“We fully appreciate just how well loved rivers like the Evenlode are and why people want to use them for recreation, however they should be mindful that sewage discharges aren’t the only sources of pollutants.

“Animal faeces from livestock and wildlife, along with run off from farms and roads, also contribute to the hazards.”

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Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Environment Agency (EA) agreed that animal faeces contributed to the pollutants.

He added: “Our current evidence shows the quality of Thames Valley rivers, including the Evenlode, is stable, though there is much work to be done to improve their Water Framework Directive status.

“This is an ongoing challenge and one to which we are fully committed. The input of phosphate predominantly arises from treated sewage discharges and agricultural diffuse pollution.

“Sewage treatment works aren’t the only sources of phosphate or other contaminants, and we work with farmers and other organisations that may impact the overall quality of our rivers.

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“Discharges of sewage under storm conditions from combined sewer overflows and other storm infrastructure are sometimes necessary to prevent flooding of properties with sewage.

“This should only occur following periods of heavy rain when the sewerage network becomes overwhelmed.

“Such facilities should only operate in storm conditions and must be carried out in compliance with permit conditions which would limit environmental impact when the sewage is very dilute and river flows high.

“A Storm Overflow Taskforce has been set up led by Defra, the EA, Ofwat and Water UK with the purpose of reducing the frequency and volume of these incidents.”

Oxford Mail:

Witney MP Robert Courts said the Environment Bill would ensure progress in reducing pollution.

“I have been working on issues relating to our local rivers for some time,” he said.

“We are making considerable progress, with Thames Water agreeing to fund an independent investigation into the River Windrush which will help us to better understand what is causing river turbidity issues locally.

“The landmark Environment Bill, currently going through Parliament, will introduce ambitious targets for improving water quality and ensure rapid progress is made in reducing pollution from agriculture and wastewater.”