Villagers angry at water company over sewage leak on street lasting months

Angry locals fed up with sewage flooding the streets have erected a 's**t show' sign in Lambourn, Berkshire. (SWNS)
Angry locals fed up with sewage flooding the streets have erected a 's**t show' sign in Lambourn, Berkshire. (SWNS) (SWNS)

Water companies have faced a barrage of criticism in recent months over the amount of raw sewage being pumped into the UK's rivers and seas. But for residents of a small village just north of the M4 in Berkshire, the issue is even closer to home.

Villagers in Lambourn say they have been forced to put up with faeces and sanitary products for more than three months on one particular stretch of road after raw sewage began spewing out of manholes. They say the problem started in December last year when a drain in Newbury Street – in the centre of the village – began to overflow, and that sewer waste has now spilled out into other areas of the village.

Children have had to walk through the polluted water to get to school while passing cars churn up the debris. Fears have also been raised about water contamination in the River Lambourn – the chalk stream that features in Channel 4's The Great British Bake Off.

A mock road sign created by a disgruntled local has been positioned along one road with the message "Lambourn s**t show" written across it.

Sewage on the streets in Lambourn, Berkshire. (SWNS)
Sewage on the streets in Lambourn, Berkshire. (SWNS) (/ SWNS)

Lambourn village sits within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is located downstream of where the popular cooking show is filmed. It is believed high levels of groundwater and already saturated ground has led to increased water flow into local drainage systems.

Locals have spotted sanitary products, human excrement and even underwear floating around sewage streams in the village, but Thames Water has yet to solve the issue.

One resident, who wished to remain unnamed, said: "We have had raw sewage running down the road and into the protected river Lambourn since December. You can see human faeces and sanitary products flowing down the road and into the river constantly.

"Large pot holes have formed in the road and Thames Water appear to have no motivation to find a solution. The village requires major investment from those responsible for preventing and dealing with this but this will not happen due to the financial state of those companies and agencies."

Another resident, who also did not want to be identified, said: “It’s not just raw sewage – I know it’s disgusting to even think about but there’s condoms and tampons in the road. Our children have to wade through it all to get to school and the smell is abominable.

Problems started back in December on Newbury Street in Lambourn when a sewage drain began to overflow. (SWNS)
Problems started back in December on Newbury Street in Lambourn when a sewage drain began to overflow. (SWNS) (SWNS)

“We shouldn’t have to live like this.”

Posting online, the Action for the River Kennet charity wrote: "The pollution of the River Lambourn continues. This is the same iconic chalk stream that features in the Great British Bake Off, and is a site of Special Specific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation."

The group describes chalk streams as "rare, globally important and fragile ecosystems". There are only 260 in the world, 224 of them being found in England.

In another post, the group added: "This morning's footage shows the manhole lids in the village of Lambourn are still continuously pouring fountains of untreated sewage pollution in this fragile chalk stream. Everything else flushed down the resident's loos the comes up through the manhole, flows down the street into the storm drain which goes directly into the river.

"In addition on the far bank you have sewage pollution coming from Thames Water's' Atac unit, this unit 'screens' the solids and pours into the river, it didn't appear to be performing especially well today. The situation is shocking and unacceptable, for our rivers and for people."

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A Thames Water spokesperson apologised for the situation and blamed heavy rainfall.

"We’re sorry that customers have been affected as our sewers have become overloaded by floodwaters in the River Lambourn area," the company told Yahoo News. "The excessively heavy rain that the region has experienced means the groundwater and river levels remain very high in this area and the ground is saturated. A significant amount of this water is entering the local sewer system and causing flooding from manholes.

"We are working hard to keep our sewers flowing and to prevent further flooding."

But with no sign of the problem abating, residents are demanding the company address the issue now.

Local MP Laura Ferris has accused Thames Water of putting "profits before people". The Conservative MP for Newbury wrote to the Environment Agency saying: "It is in the water and poisoning it, week after week. Quite why nobody has taken the practical step to catch the effluent in some kind of device, after it leaves the manhole but before it reaches the water, is beyond me.

"The casual attitude to such a precious waterway is deplorable."

A nationwide issue

There is growing anger over the polluted state of England’s rivers and coasts, with no single stretch of river classed as being in a good overall condition, and hundreds of pollution risk alerts issued for popular beaches around the country last year.

Last week the water industry came under fire after figures revealed storm overflows dumped sewage into rivers and seas for more than 3.6 million hours in 2023.

Data published by the Environment Agency (EA) revealed there were 464,056 spills in 2023, up 54% from 301,091 in 2022, which the organisation said was partly due to England experiencing its sixth-wettest year on record.

The duration of the sewage spills had more than doubled from 1,754,921 hours hours in 2022, to 3,606,170 hours in 2023, the figures show.

Fury with the water industry intensified when Thames Water revealed its funding crisis had deepened after shareholders refused to give the troubled utility extra cash.

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