Councillors at Thames Water

Council takes steps to reduce sewage pollution into local waterways

West Oxfordshire District Council has been working closely with Thames Water to take steps to reduce sewage pollution in our waterways. 

Cllr Lidia Arciszewska, Executive Member for Environment, said, “The current situation is not acceptable. Over the last six months, I have been working with local district councillors, Council officers and Thames Water to take steps to improve this situation.

“The Council has now changed its planning regulations so that all development applications must declare at the outset whether there is sufficient capacity at the relevant sewage treatment works. 

“Where there is insufficient capacity, a planning condition will be added stating that the new homes may not be occupied until additional capacity has been installed. Buyers and solicitors will be made aware of this condition upfront. 

“Thames Water has also agreed to respond to planning applications for all developments in locations where there is insufficient treatment capacity rather than just the larger ones.”

The Council team has also been discussing Thames Water’s capacity calculations for their sewage treatment works. 

The team is concerned that Thames Water’s data takes optimistic approaches towards key data inputs, such as the amount of water used by each person that ends up in the sewage system. Additionally, Thames Water appears to be applying a multiplier below the Environment Agency’s recommended 3.0x in its capacity calculations. Both of these actions potentially lower the estimated required capacity of the sewage treatment works and therefore not enough is invested in improving the sewage treatment capacity.

Problems extend beyond the improving capacity for the future, with the Council being told that over 40% of the waste being processed by sewage plants is coming from water getting into the sewer system through leaky pipes and manholes. This reduces the capacity for sewage treatment.

Cllr Arciszewska added, “We are seeking further information from Thames Water on what steps they have been taking, and how they plan to address this issue of sewage entering our waterways.

“In some cases, such as Witney, Thames Water has provided a clear action plan for addressing capacity; in other cases, such as Carterton, Cassington and Woodstock, these are still to come.

“We need Thames Water’s commitment to fund solutions which address these serious problems now. We are grateful both to the Thames Water team and to local campaign groups for working with us to explore these problems and solutions to them.

Contact Information

West Oxfordshire District Council Communications Team

[email protected]

Notes to editors

Photo caption: Cllr Lidia Arciszewska, Executive Member for Environment, Councillors Charlie Maynard and Alaric Smith at Thames Water