Oxfordshire Liberal Democrats

Getting sewage out of our gardens, cellars, villages and rivers

Sewage is a major problem in West Oxfordshire, so bad that last year both Witney and Stanton Harcourt's sewage treatment plants made it onto BBC Panorama (a must watch, if ever there was one)

In Stanton Harcourt residents are sometimes having to send messages to neighbours not to use their washing machines or flush their toilets, to avoid their houses and gardens being flooded with sewage. In Aston, residents have written to the CEO of Thames Water in desperation, with no effect. 

Data from The Rivers Trust reveals the extent of the sewage problem. 

The Problem

In 2020, Thames Water reported profits of £244.6 million, while polluting on a massive scale. In the same year, in West Oxfordshire alone, the following local Thames Water sewage treatment sites overflowed:

  • Cassington – 28 times for 230 hours
  • Chadlington – 45 times for 446 hours
  • Charlbury – 28 times for 370 hours
  • Church Hanborough - 81 times for 900 hours
  • Combe - 29 times for 306 hours
  • Finstock – 26 times for 249 hours
  • South Leigh – 154 times for 3,343 hours (that’s the equivalent of more than four and a half months non-stop!)
  • Standlake – 24 times for 444 hours
  • Stanton Harcourt – 132 times for 2,484 hours
  • Witney – 97 times for 1,563 hours

If you'd like to see how much sewage has affected rivers in your area, the Rivers Trust provides a handy map showing "where the sewerage network discharges treated effluent and overflows of untreated effluent and storm water into rivers."

Finding Solutions

This is both a national and local problem, resulting from the privatisation of our water utilities by the Tories in the 1980s. Much more money needs to be invested in the necessary infrastructure. Instead, private investors play pass-the-parcel with our utilities, siphoning off money as dividends while not making the necessary capital investments.  

We demand stronger legislation and more pressure on Thames Water and its lead investors, such as the UK’s Universities Superannuation Fund, to drive better results. We are focusing on working with local groups to develop practical solutions to the problem. The work of unpaid volunteers like WASP (Windrush Against Sewage Pollution) has been critical in getting the message out. Changes won’t happen overnight—given the years of underinvestment—but if we work together as a community and stay focussed on this, we can get there.

Please sign below if you support our efforts to scrutinise and put pressure on Thames Water. You should also follow and support WASP, who are doing the monitoring and crunching the numbers that will be critical to holding Thames Water to their commitments. It's strange that this job—which should be done by the Environment Agency—should be left to retired university professors and volunteers at WASP, but that's where we're at, unfortunately. As of April 2022 our local MP, Robert Courts, has voted against amendments to hold the water companies to more account three times. 

Will you sign?

Do you want to be updated by email about our campaigns and ways to get involved?

The Liberal Democrats may use the information you provide, including your political opinions, to further our objectives and share it with our elected representatives. Any data we gather will be used in accordance with our privacy policy: www.libdems.org.uk/privacy You can exercise your rights and withdraw your consent to future communications by contacting us: [email protected] or: DPO, Lib Dems, 1 Vincent Square, SW1P 2PN.