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FOUL FIGURES: Data shows record amount of sewage discharged into Berkhamsted canal

 Published on: 10th May 2024   |   By: Bryn Holmes   |   Category: Uncategorized

New data has shown that the number of discharges from Berkhamsted Sewage Treatment Works increased by 175 per cent last year.

Figures from the Environment Agency show that there were 33 separate discharges from the Berkhamsted site in 2023 – 21 more than in 2022.

The discharges from the sewage treatment works, run by Thames Water, feed into the Grand Union Canal, which runs through the heart of Berkhamsted, the Midlands and the South of England.

Last year was the worst on record for storm water pollution in England, with overflows flooding the country’s seas and rivers for a combined total of 3.6 million hours – more than double the amount from the previous year.

Minister for Water and Rural Growth Robbie Moore MP said: “The data shows water companies must go further and faster to tackle storm overflows and clean up our precious waterways.

“We will be ensuring the Environment Agency closely scrutinises these findings and takes enforcement action where necessary.”

Thames Water’s website states that upgrades worth up to £25million are currently being completed at the Berkhamsted Sewage Treatment Works, which will reduce the need for sewage discharges in wet weather. The works are due to be completed later this year.

The newly released data has also shown that Thames Water were responsible for the largest increase in the number of sewage discharges in 2023, with 16,990 separate incidents taking place across England under their watch.

Previously, in 2016, Thames Water were prosecuted by the Environment Agency for a series of discharges into the Grand Union Canal which had taken place four years earlier.

At the time, the £1million fine Thames Water were ordered to pay was the largest-ever fine for a water company in a prosecution brought by the Environment Agency.

The under-pressure water company is also facing other major problems, as it was revealed on March 27 that investors have withheld nearly £4billion from the company unless water bills rise.

In response to this, the beleaguered business is now struggling to pay back a £190million loan due at the end of this month. Restructuring talks are now ongoing, with a team of top business experts drafted in to help.

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “We regard any untreated discharges as unacceptable, and we’re committed to stopping them from being necessary, with the assistance of our regulators.

“Storm discharges are closely linked to rainfall and groundwater conditions and our region experienced above average rainfall for most of 2023, which saw an increase in the frequency and duration of storm discharges from our sites compared to 2022.

“We’re currently increasing sewage treatment capacity at 250 of our sites across London and the Thames Valley, including our Berkhamsted Sewage Treatment Works at a cost of around £25million.

“These upgrades will increase treatment capacity from 247 to 316 litres per second and reduce the need for overflows during wet weather. We expect this project to be completed this year.

“Taking action to improve the health of our rivers is a key focus for us and we are leading the way with our transparent approach to data.

“We remain the only company to provide live alerts for all untreated discharges 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.”

You can view Thames Water’s real-time map here.

Photo Credit: River Bulbourne

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