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.