Two county councillors are calling on Gagan Mohindra, MP for South West Hertfordshire, to do more to stop discharges of sewage into rivers.
Liberal Democrat councillors Phil Williams and Chris Lloyd of the Three Rivers Ward have launched this campaign following recent discharges into both the River Colne and the River Chess, which runs through Rickmansworth.
Cllr Williams said: “I’m livid that human sewage is still allowed to be fed into our rivers.”
Cllr Lloyd added: “We need action now to protect our residents and wildlife.”
Mr Mohindra MP said: “As vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways, I believe that we must do all that we can to keep our rivers, chalk streams and seas as clean as we can.
“Throughout 2021 and 2022, I held regular meetings with Thames Water and local action groups to discuss the progress made in South West Hertfordshire on flooding and sewage discharges. I look forward to visiting the Thames Water branch in Chesham in the next couple of months alongside local councillors to discuss matters such as sewage discharges further.
“I am pleased that through my discussions with Thames Water, commitments were secured to reduce groundwater flooding risks that would affect storm overflows, to add new public event monitors to all storm overflows by the end of 2023 and to increase sewage treatment at Chesham by 30 per cent, which should accelerate progress to ending discharge of raw sewage into the River Chess. I welcome the news that since new pumps have been installed in the area, there have been no notable floods or sewage discharges.
“I remain committed to working with my colleagues to build on the progress the government has made in tackling sewage discharges. Since 2016, the monitoring of storm overflows has increased from five per cent to 90 per cent. I understand residents’ concerns about water companies polluting our rivers illegally, and I share this view. The government has carried out the largest-ever investigation into water companies which has led to record fines, with the Environment Agency bringing about 48 prosecutions of this nature, securing fines of £137million.
“I am supportive of the government introducing a legal duty on water companies to keep our waterways clean and the announcement that £56billion will be invested in its infrastructure, totalling the biggest investment of this kind in history.
“Whilst I am disappointed that cllr Williams and cllr Lloyd did not contact me directly, I would like to reassure them and South West Hertfordshire residents that I will continue to ensure water companies are held to account over any illegal sewage discharges. I have been able to work constructively with councillors such as Sally Symington on flooding issues previously, and I do hope that the case can be the same with cllr Williams and cllr Lloyd. As always, I would encourage them and my constituents to contact me directly if they have any concerns.”
A Thames Water spokesperson said: “Our current investment programme, which is fully funded, will deliver major increases in treatment capacity at many of our sites, including planned upgrades to Chesham sewage treatment works.
“We are absolutely committed to protecting and enhancing our rivers and the communities who love them, and we want to make these discharges of diluted sewage unnecessary as quickly as possible.
“We are the first company to provide storm overflow alerts for inland waters and this ‘near real-time’ data is available to customers on our website. We want to lead the way with this transparent approach and the alerts will be available through an open data platform for third parties, such as swimming and environmental groups, to use.
“Our shareholders have recently approved a business plan that sees us spending an additional £2billion beyond what our customers are funding so we can improve outcomes for customers, leakage and river health. This will allow us to deliver our commitment to a 50 per cent reduction in the total annual duration of discharges across London and the Thames Valley by 2030, and within that an 80 per cent reduction in sensitive catchments.
“We’re already delivering a £100million upgrade of our Mogden sewage treatment works and we’ll continue our regulated programme of work to upgrade sewage works across our region.”