In March 2022, Michael Brooker, Rachel Crouch and Ruth Smith organised a protest march to Thames Water’s Witney Sewage Treatment Works. Untreated sewage is discharged into Colwell Brook behind the works whenever there is heavy rainfall and even at times when there is none. The ecosystem downstream has declined. There was a good turnout, with residents from all over the area and representatives of a range of political standpoints, as well as invited speakers from WASP, Windrush Against Sewage Pollution.
Cllr Ruth Smith ran a petition in 2020 which was submitted jointly to West Oxfordshire District Council and to Thames Water, calling for an upgrade to Witney’s treatment capacity, caution when granting planning applications that will connect new toilets to a plant that already fails to cope, and an end to release of untreated sewage. WODC debated it that Autumn and resolved to write to the MP, because the water companies need to be compelled to clean up by legislation. When an amendment to the Environment Bill, that would have made water companies end sewage overspills, was proposed in 2021, the MP did not vote for it. The line is that it would cost too much. Yet a look at water company profits and underinvestment throws that into question.
Michael Brooker read out the letter to Thames Water and posted it through the letterbox at Witney STW. Thames Water replied to the protestors, detailing their scheduled upgrade, and saying the case is closed because they can offer no further help. The upgrade is based on a capacity that is exceeded by the new houses being built in Witney. We continue to call for upgrades that meet capacity now and for the future.