Wed. Apr 17th, 2024
alert-–-thames-water-sewage-leak-in-picture-postcard-village-lasted-for-53-days-before-finally-stopping…and-then-starting-again-hours-later:-locals-say-decade-long-crisis-has-‘killed-everything-in-the-river’Alert – Thames Water sewage leak in picture postcard village lasted for 53 DAYS before finally stopping…and then starting again hours later: Locals say decade-long crisis has ‘killed everything in the river’

Thames Water dumped raw sewage into a brook in a picture postcard Oxfordshire village for 1,275 hours straight in an ongoing crisis that has ‘killed everything in the river’, locals claim. 

Untreated wastewater has spilled into Mill Brook, in South Moreton, near Didcot, for a month-and-a-half non-stop until Saturday, Thames Water data shows.

And locals have also claimed the sewage leaks have been happening for the best part of a decade.

The most recent prolonged discharge began at the storm overflow at South Moreton sewage treatment works on February 6 and continued uninterrupted for 1,275 hours and 30 minutes – 53 days – before finally ending on Saturday, March 30.

But the pumping of untreated sewage into Mill Brook, which feeds into the River Thames, restarted at 3pm the same day, and is still ongoing.

The high number of spills at the plant are caused by cracks and holes in pipes, in what the Environment Agency has confirmed as an ‘asset maintenance issue’. This leads to groundwater infiltration into system which overloads its capacity, forcing the overflows to open.

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Untreated wastewater has spilled into Mill Brook, in South Moreton, near Didcot almost every day over the past two months

Untreated wastewater has spilled into Mill Brook, in South Moreton, near Didcot almost every day over the past two months

The continuous leaks of untreated sewage into the waters have 'killed everything' locals claim

The continuous leaks of untreated sewage into the waters have ‘killed everything’ locals claim

The high number of spills at the plant (pictured) are caused by cracks and holes in pipes, in what the Environment Agency has confirmed as an 'asset maintenance issue'

The high number of spills at the plant (pictured) are caused by cracks and holes in pipes, in what the Environment Agency has confirmed as an ‘asset maintenance issue’ 

Muck covering the waters at Mill Brook in South Moreton, Oxfordshire where Thames Water dumped raw sewage for 1,275 hours straight

Muck covering the waters at Mill Brook in South Moreton, Oxfordshire where Thames Water dumped raw sewage for 1,275 hours straight

Local Ross Van-Cronk walks his two dogs every day alongside the brook

Local Ross Van-Cronk walks his two dogs every day alongside the brook

The only way to address this is through infrastructure investment. Thames Water says it plans to upgrade the South Moreton sewage works in 2026, with an expectation that storm overflow targets will be met by 2040 to 2045.

The sewage works pumped raw sewage into the brook for 2,568 hours over 162 separate spills last year, Environment Agency data shows. But just this year, it has pumped filthy water into the brook for around 2,150 hour, more than 80 per cent of the entire 2023 figure.

Local Ross Van-Cronk, who lives in nearby North Moreton, walks his two dogs every day alongside the brook, which is right next to the sewage works, says the problem has been ongoing for the last ten years.

He said of the sewage works: ‘It’s killed everything in the river. There’s nothing alive in it. There were big pike and otters in there.

READ MORE: Idyllic Cotswolds village where shamed Thames Water has been leaking sewage into its river for 338 HOURS straight and counting – as families fear putrid water is poisoning their dogs, killing bees and harming farmers’ crops

‘It’s been happening every day for nine to 10 years. It’s never stopped.

‘My kids used to swim in it. We put a stop to that a few years ago.’

Mr Van-Cronk added that he tried to made sure his dogs did not enter the water but that about two-and-a-half years ago one slipped through a hole in the fence and got into the brook. ‘She literally had to swim through poo,’ he said.

Fortunately his dog did not become ill after the incident but it left him extra cautious about walking close to the sewage works, which is just two minutes’ drive from South Moreton.

Mr Van-Cronk said: ‘Around here, you wouldn’t expect it. It should be illegal.’

He was pleased the matter was set to be aired publicly, saying: ‘I thought nobody cared about it.’

When visited the site – less than half a mile from South Moreton Pre-School – on Saturday, small amounts of sewage could be seen spewing from three pipes into the brook and there was a persistent unpleasant smell.

Water was leaking constantly from a building behind locked gates and a large area of dark sludge was close to two of the discharge pipes.

There were no obvious signs by the brook warning people not to swim in it or to keep their dogs out of it.

An outlet from the sewage works pumping sewage directly into Mill Brook on Saturday

 An outlet from the sewage works pumping sewage directly into Mill Brook on Saturday

An aerial view of the sewage treatment works in South Moreton, near Didcot

An aerial view of the sewage treatment works in South Moreton, near Didcot

Thames Water says it plans to upgrade the South Moreton sewage works in 2026, with an expectation that storm overflow targets will be met by 2040 to 2045

Thames Water says it plans to upgrade the South Moreton sewage works in 2026, with an expectation that storm overflow targets will be met by 2040 to 2045

Ash Smith (left) and Professor Peter Hammond (right) from Windrush against Sewage Pollution

Ash Smith (left) and Professor Peter Hammond (right) from Windrush against Sewage Pollution

Mr Smith collects a sample from the brook to test it for pollutants from the sewage works

Mr Smith collects a sample from the brook to test it for pollutants from the sewage works

The waterways covered in a thick film of much as the sewage works leaked for months

The waterways covered in a thick film of much as the sewage works leaked for months

Mr Smith performs tests on the water samples collected from the brook in South Moreton

Mr Smith performs tests on the water samples collected from the brook in South Moreton

South Moreton is an idyllic rural village in Oxfordshire, with the High Street being home to several thatched cottages

South Moreton is an idyllic rural village in Oxfordshire, with the High Street being home to several thatched cottages

The

A beautiful thatched cottage in the rural village of South Moreton, Oxfordshire 

There were also abandoned bags of concrete left just outside the gate to the sewage plant.

A Thames Water sign attached to the gate reads: ‘Please report any issues – We care about the environment. So if you spot an issue at this location, please give us a call and we’ll investigate it as quickly as we can.’

Ash Smith and Professor Peter Hammond, of the Windrush Against Sewage Pollution group, were at the Thames Water facility when the was there.

Mr Smith was not surprised that the spill had been going on for so long, saying: ‘This is nothing new in terms of Thames Water and other water companies. They have been operating illegally with long spills for years.’

He claimed the companies had failed to spend money on improving sites like South Moreton and that regulators and the Government had allowed them to get away with it.

‘The decline of our waters is shocking. Soon the people who remember them as they should be will gone,’ he said.

The original sign for the South Moreton Sewage Works, which appears to have originally been run by Wallington Rural District Council

The original sign for the South Moreton Sewage Works, which appears to have originally been run by Wallington Rural District Council

The Thames Water Utilities Ltd sign for the South Moreton Sewage Treatment Works

The Thames Water Utilities Ltd sign for the South Moreton Sewage Treatment Works

'Please report any issues - We care about the environment. So if you spot an issue at this location, please give us a call and we'll investigate it as quickly as we can.'

‘Please report any issues – We care about the environment. So if you spot an issue at this location, please give us a call and we’ll investigate it as quickly as we can.’

There were also abandoned bags of concrete left just outside the gate to the sewage plant

There were also abandoned bags of concrete left just outside the gate to the sewage plant

When  visited the site on Saturday, small amounts of sewage could be seen spewing from three pipes into the brook and there was a persistent unpleasant smell

When visited the site on Saturday, small amounts of sewage could be seen spewing from three pipes into the brook and there was a persistent unpleasant smell

The sewage works is less than half a mile from South Moreton Pre-School on the High Street

The sewage works is less than half a mile from South Moreton Pre-School on the High Street

The dire-looking state of the sewage works in South Moreton, Oxfordshire on Saturday

The dire-looking state of the sewage works in South Moreton, Oxfordshire on Saturday

The gate at the entrance to the South Moreton Sewage Treatment Works

The gate at the entrance to the South Moreton Sewage Treatment Works

Professor Hammond said he believes the problem at the sewage works is due to holes in pipes allowing groundwater into the system. This adds to its sewage load, with the excess being dumped into the brook.

‘Dumping for that reason is illegal,’ the campaigner added.

South Moreton is an idyllic rural village in Oxfordshire, with the High Street being home to several thatched cottages.

In the heart of the village, where fewer than 400 people live and where there is a pub, two churches, a school and a pre-school, many people seemed oblivious to the massive sewage leak happening on their doorstep.

At The Crown pub on South Moreton High Street, customer John Hart was outraged by the ongoing sewage discharges, saying: ‘This shouldn’t be happening. That’s what we pay them [Thames Water] for.

‘It’s beautiful around here. We don’t want sewage being pumped in the brook.’

The water company’s storm overflow investment plan says: ‘An upgrade is planned for South Moreton STW. This will improve its ability to treat the volumes of incoming sewage, reducing the need for untreated discharges in wet weather. The scheme, which is still being designed, is due to complete in 2026.

‘We expect this location to meet all government targets for storm overflows by 2040 – 2045.’

A Thames Water spokesperson said: ‘Taking action to improve the health of rivers is a key focus for us and we want to lead the way with our transparent approach to data. We’re the first company to provide live alerts for all untreated discharges throughout our region and this ‘near real-time’ data is available to customers as a map on our website and is also available through an open data platform for third parties, such as swimming and environmental groups, to use.

‘Of course, what matters most is stopping the need for the discharges and we have published plans to upgrade over 250 of our sewage treatment works and sewers.

‘An upgrade is planned for South Moreton STW. This will improve its ability to treat the volumes of incoming sewage, reducing the need for untreated discharges in wet weather. The scheme, which is still being designed, is due to complete in 2026.’