Wildlife charity reacts to verdict on Thames Water’s pollution of River Thame and outline future plans at their Annual Meeting

PRESS RELEASE

 Friday 25 March 2017

Local wildlife charity the River Thame Conservation Trust this week welcomed the £20 million fine imposed at Aylesbury Crown Court for Thames Water’s negligence and recklessness at sewage treatment works in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. The £20 million fine goes direct to the treasury and local groups warn that environmental recovery must also be properly funded.

 

£9million of the fine was for severe pollution of the River Thame between January and November 2013 when Thames Water discharged millions of litres of untreated sewage into the River Thame at Aylesbury, enough to fill 1,146 Olympic size swimming pools.

 

In court, the events had been described as a ‘very dark period in Thames Water’s history’ with ‘diabolical procedures’ being partly the cause of the catalogue of pollution that had a devastating effect on River Thame wildlife.

Thames Water announced that they will be allocating £1.5 million through their Community Investment Fund to be ring-fenced for projects to improve the rivers and wildlife at the affected locations but environmentalists say this is not enough. Louise Bowe, CEO of the River Thame Conservation Trust said, “…we’ve developed good working relationships with Thames Water’s current staff and want to work closely with them going forward to put the River right. But we’re disappointed in the size of the Environment Fund they have announced. It will take years to properly renew the Thame catchment and £1.5millon is far too little spread over the wide areas affected in our catchment and others”.

The Trust held their Annual Open meeting in Stadhampton this week when more than fifty local people attended to hear about the wildlife surveying, water quality monitoring and wildlife habitat creation that has taken place over the last year and future plans “We work with farmers, landowners and more than a hundred and twenty committed community volunteers across the river catchment,” said Mrs Sally Rowlands, Chair of the trust. “We’ve got wonderful local support and the enthusiastic turnout this evening is a good example of just how much people value the River”.

 

Notes for Editors

 

  • The River Thame runs 40 miles from north of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire to the village of Dorchester on Thames in Oxfordshire. Its many brooks and streams wind through both counties providing beautiful areas for people and wildlife.

 

  • Set up in 2013, the River Thame Conservation Trust brings together local residents with farmers, landowners, anglers and naturalists to monitor, safeguard and enhance water quality and wildlife populations in and along the River Thame and its tributaries. Our vision is a river catchment with healthy fresh waters and wildlife, valued and enjoyed by local people.

 

t:07725 193326 .

PRESS RELEASE Wednesday 22 March 2017: Wildlife charity awaits verdict on Thames Water’s ‘wicked’ pollution of River Thame

Local wildlife charity the River Thame Conservation Trust has listened in dismay over recent weeks as accounts of Thames Water’s negligence and mismanagement at Aylesbury Sewage Treatment Works and other sites has unfolded at Aylesbury Crown Court. Judge Frances Sheridan at one point referred to the company flagrantly breaching its environmental consents as, “an unacceptable breach, a wicked breach”.

Sentencing is due today on the water company’s role in the major pollution incidents at six separate  sites in 2013. A large penalty is anticipated as Judge Sheridan warned on Friday,

“ ...we’ve got to get the message to shareholders that the environment is to be protected, not poisoned and polluted”.

Untreated sewage was released from Thames Water sites including Aylesbury sewage works which discharges directly into the River Thame flowing through Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The events at Aylesbury took place in the several months prior to July 2013 when the alarm was raised by the public when large numbers of dead fish were spotted in the river.

The River Thame and its smaller local streams are special places in our local countryside for wildlife and people”, explained River Thame Conservation Trust Chief Executive Louise Bowe, “we have been shocked as the catalogue of events from 2013 have come out in court. It was much worse than we thought and explains how the devastating damage to the river came about. Poor quality sewage effluent being released reduces oxygen in the water. Fish and other aquatic wildlife struggle to survive and the whole ecosystem can be damaged for many years. Some large fish that were killed cannot be replaced as species like large mature chub and roach are simply not available.” 

The Trust has been carrying out wildlife surveying, water quality monitoring and wildlife habitat creation in the area for the last few years. “We work with farmers, landowners and more than a hundred and twenty committed community volunteers across the river catchment,” said Mrs Sally Rowlands, Chair of the trust. “We’ve got wonderful local support which shows how much people value the River”.

 Thames Water has supported the Trust with grant funding for their work and Ms Bowe was keen to point out that, “we’ve developed good working relationships with Thames Water’s current staff and we want to work closely with them going forward to put the River Thame right. To that end, we’re disappointed at the size of the Environment Fund they have announced. It will take years to properly renew the Thame catchment and other affected areas and £1.5millon is far too little when you consider that this will be spread around the six areas where pollution occurred. Large fines may act as a deterrent but, as they go to the Treasury, they are of no benefit to the environment.” 

Notes for Editors 

  • The River Thame runs 40 miles from north of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire to the village of Dorchester on Thames in Oxfordshire. Its many brooks and streams wind through both counties providing beautiful areas for people and wildlife.
  • Set up in 2013, the River Thame Conservation Trust brings together local residents with farmers, landowners, anglers and naturalists to monitor, safeguard and enhance water quality and wildlife populations in and along the River Thame and its tributaries. Our vision is a river catchment with healthy fresh waters and wildlife, valued and enjoyed by local people.

 

 

 

RTCT March 2017 Newsletter

Welcome to our fifth RTCT newsletter. We always love to update people on what is happening around the catchment, and what better way to fill people in than with a monthly newsletter. We hope that you enjoy reading and welcome any suggestions for next month, just send them and any photographs to Natalie@riverthame.org

Staffing Change

Natalie Breden started as the RTCT new Project Officer on the 27th February and after an intense but excellent two week handover, Emily left to move onto bigger and better things at The Environment Agency.

Natalie haNatalie and emilys a background in Wildlife Conservation from her BSc (of which she studied for at one of our local Universities, Oxford Brookes) and her MSc. After various voluntary roles with organisations such as the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts and working for numerous Ecological Consultancies, carrying out protected species surveys, Natalie got a job as Education Officer with The Conservation Volunteers. She loved passing on her passion for the environment and engaging the next generation in the natural world, but on the ground conservation work was calling her back. She is really looking forward to putting everything into the role and working with RTCT’s great volunteers and partners.

We wish Emily all the best in her new role, but we are looking forward to having her back as a volunteer and key supporter of the trust.

Spring has sprung!

Spring is really and truly is on its way along the Thame. Natalie and Emily took this lovely photo of daffodils last week and we would love to see your spring photo’s too – please send them to Natalie@riverthame.org

Over the next few months the Thame will really come to life with birds singing, blossom C6Vk8UqWMAESMsebursting out in every direction, Brimstone Butterflies (one of the first butterflies to take flight in spring) and don’t forget to look out for queen bees searching for new nest sites after their long hibernation.

This is great time of year for recording – especially for toad and frog spawn. Join in with The PondNet Spawn Survey run by The Freshwater Habitats Trust. This will give us a great indication of distribution across The Thame catchment and the UK as a whole.

Download a surveying form here:

http://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/pondnet/spawnsurvey2017/

Events

We have lots of exciting events and new volunteering opportunities to get involved with over the next few months – make sure you keep an eye on our events page of the website, but here are a few dates for your diaries.

Training days:
The River Thame has very few species records and we are really trying to increase the data we have for The Thame Catchment, not only will this help make informed decisions with any future management and protection of sites but also understanding what species may need our help.

We are putting on a series of training days to train up potential recorders to help us gain the invaluable data we so badly need. We are putting on the following training:

Amphibian surveying training – Saturday 15th April

Water Shrew surveying training – Friday 21st April

Riverfly surveying training – Saturday 6th May

Otter surveying – Tuesday 23rd May

Wetland Bird surveying – date to be arranged for AutumWP_20161007_12_18_31_Pron

 

Habitat improvement days:

Throughout the summer months we will also be running numerous habitat improvement days throughout the catchment. Please see current dates below:

Litter picking in Aylesbury – Saturday 13th May & Wednesday 21st June 10.00am – 2pm

Himalayan Balsam Bashing in Aylesbury – Wednesday 31st May, Wednesday 7th June, Wednesday 14th June & Saturday 24th June 10.30am – 3pm

Himalayan Balsam Bashing on the Chalgrove Brook – Thursday 1st June & Saturday 10th June 10.30am – 3pm

In channel habitat improvements on the Chalgrove Brook and in Aylesbury – Dates to be arranged for autumn

There are limited places on all these events so please book your place. To book please email Natalie@riverthame.org

Camera Traps for some lucky Aylesbury volunteers

We have a great opportunity for 7 lucky Aylesbury volunteers to record the wildlife of The River Thame. As part of a project funded by Tesco we have bought motion sensor cameras and underwater cameras to see the hidden life of the wildlife in our catchment.

If you live in Aylesbury and you are interested in manning your own camera then please contact natalie@riverthame.org. There are limited cameras available so they will be distributed on a first come first serve basis.

RTCT November Newsletter

Welcome to our second RTCT newsletter. We always love to update people on what is happening around the catchment, and what better way to fill people in than with a monthly newsletter. We hope that you enjoy reading and welcome any suggestions for next month, just send an email to Emily Godfrey: emily@riverthame.org Continue reading

Is Waterstock Mill the best site on the main River Thame?

Waterstock Mill morning 1Waterstock Mill was surveyed on the 16th of August at mid-day by Ellen Robson from the University of East Anglia, supported by Emily Godfrey from the River Thame Conservation Trust. As part of Ellen’s dissertation project, which aimed to understand the distribution of dragonflies and damselflies (odonates), she carried out multiple surveys including water quality and invertebrate counts. Continue reading