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The River Thames

This is a new page created June 2021 to provide information about the efforts through local activism to end the practice of Thames Water discharging raw sewage into the River Thames at numerous sites and in particular, in Sandford-on-Thames just downstream of the de Voco hotel during episodes of heavy rain.

Here is a report from Charlie Wilson (Parish Councillor until May 2021) following a meeting he attended on behalf of the Parish Council:

I attended the above meeting.  Below is a summary of what I took from it; full minutes will be sent out by the organisers in due course.

  • Thames Valley Rivers Network is the new name for the River Thames Champions.  To avoid confusion, this might change again.
  • There are lots of organisations involved with trying to improve the water-quality of the Thames, excluding Thames Water (and you take the meaning of that either way).
  • Thames Water was represented by Yvette Degaris.  As we are used to, she was effusively supportive of how unacceptable the current situation was, how sorry Thames Water is, how urgently it wants, needs, nay, yearns to do better etc.  She was also honest that they don’t have a timetable for making any improvements.  When pushed, she also admitted that they don’t have a timetable to produce a timetable of improvements.  So, all waffle no ice-cream.  However, my interpretation of her contribution is that it supports my hypothesis: the only place that Thames Water see themselves as vulnerable is their corporate reputation.  They cannot be seen/heard saying anything other than “Dumping raw sewage in the river is wrong” and so they do that enthusiastically.  This makes it very difficult to get at their weakness.  Any future engagement should aim to fight through their PR fogging machine and really challenge them on timescales, making it a reputational issue.
  • A lot of hope is being pinned on the new legislation but that will take time to come into effect and then have an effect.

Monitoring

  • There are now more sources of information about Thames Waters’ polluting activities:
    • Thames Water river health page on their website: https://www.thameswater.co.uk/about-us/performance/river-health
    • Email requests for information can be sent to EIR.requests@thameswater.co.uk
    • They are trying a system of putting out warnings on Twitter: @oxthamessewage but apparently there are technical issues with this and they are developing a map-based system.  (Again, lots of info on what they are doing wrong, stuff-all about when they are going to stop.)
  • County Councillor Nick Field-Johnson (Burford & Carterton North) said that their local council (can’t remember at which level) had obtained some river water-quality testing equipment to provide independent monitoring.  They used a mixture of Council grants and local fundraising to pay for it.  He accused Thames Water of lying about water quality!  The PC might want to investigate something similar.

Other interesting snippets:

  • Thames Water cannot prevent developers from connecting houses to the foul-water system but they admitted that they didn’t engage sufficiently with them to implement improvements before developments.
  • The Thames is actually a highway!  So there might be funding available from the Highways Agency.
  • There is a Thames Clean-up day being organised for 26 September.  While this will only target the visible problems (ie litter), it will be a good way to inspire and maintain interest in cleaning up what can’t be seen unaided.

 

Overall, I would assess that the meeting represents the greatly increased levels of interest in this matter.  I recommend that the PC remains engaged with the Network and supports it.