Anger after raw sewage pumped into Cotswolds rivers

Councillors in the Cotswolds have criticised water companies for pumping raw sewage into local rivers (pictured: a stock image of a river being assessed). Credit: PA

Councillors in the Cotswolds have reacted angrily after yet more raw sewage was pumped into local rivers.

The latest figures suggest raw sewage was discharged into Cotswolds rivers 1,260 times in 2020.

The situation was described as a scandal by Cotswold District Council leader Joe Harris at a crunch meeting on March 16.

He said people living in the area had been “let down” by the water companies.

Sewage in rivers is putting public health and nature at risk, according to councillors.

‘Stool Britannia’

“I’m quite proud to be British, there are lots of things we do fantastically as a country but when it comes to water and sewage you can forget ‘Rule Britannia’ it’s more ‘stool Britannia’,” he said.

“It really is awful. We have been let down for too many years by our water companies.

“Right across this district, our water infrastructure is creaking and the residents are paying the price and having to put up with the grim reality of having raw sewage floating in their kitchens and their garden.”

The council unanimously agreed to set up a working group with neighbouring councils to target areas where sewage treatment is insufficient.

The authority will also write to the Government asking for it to speed up their capital programme to lower risks of untreated sewage being discharged into rivers.

They also want an assurance that developers will be expected to fund water infrastructure to meet the needs of new housing.

‘No places safe to swim’

Andrew Doherty, who is the council’s environment, waste and recycling cabinet member, said sewage was a significant problem.

He said: “Lots of you will have seen examples on social media and online of unpleasant looking brown sludge floating around in rivers.

Councillors fear the sewage will make Cotswolds rivers unsuitable for swimming (pictured: a stock image of people wild swimming in a river).

“That’s an obvious thing but sometimes it’s much more subtle. It’s also a significant problem because of where we are has one of the primary sets of feed water for the River Thames.

“Our rivers are important and they are being polluted to a degree that most of the public would not recognise or understand is going on. 

“What is allowed to happen is if it rains or snows excessively, sewage treatment works are allowed to discharge excessive amounts of untreated material in the rivers. There are almost no places which are safe to swim.”

Statistics from the Rivers Trust shows sewage discharges across the Cotswold district in 2020 occurred for 17,609 hours in total.

This problem has also been reported in other parts of the region - including the River Wye, which connects with the Severn estuary.

The amount of time sewage has been spilled into the Wye at various locations. Credit: ITV News West Country

Last year, a special investigation by ITV News West Country, ITV News Central and ITV News Wales revealed storm drains lining the rivers and streams that flow into the Wye discharged sewage 40,000 times. 

This means raw sewage was dumped into rivers and streams for a total of 17 million minutes - the equivalent to 33 years.

Water companies have previously said they are engaging with their customers to resolve the issue.

Credit: Carmelo Garcia, Local Democracy Reporter