A river protection group based in Marlborough has called for the UK Government to place Thames Water under ‘special measures’, after months of battling sewage problems.

Marlborough's Action for the River Kennett (ARK) group and Angling Trust have both raised urgent concerns about raw sewage pouring into the rivers Kennet, Lambourn and Pang, all of which are overseen by Thames Water.

Recent data shows that in 2023, the Thames Water region experienced 16,990 sewage spills totalling 196,414 hours.

The River Kennet in Marlborough has been a particular hotspot for this after a popped sewer lid in January 2024 turned the Stonebridge River Reserve, where schoolchildren are taken to learn about the river, into a raw sewage swamp.

The issue reached its height in April 2024 when Wiltshire and Berkshire communities took to the streets in a public outcry against the lack of action taken to fix sewage issues.

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The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: The Stonebridge River Reserve in Marlborough where children used to enter the river has faced relentless sewage issues.The Stonebridge River Reserve in Marlborough where children used to enter the river has faced relentless sewage issues. (Image: ARK)

“For too long the water industry has got away with pouring untreated sewage into the chalk streams of the Kennet and Pang, sometimes for months at a time,” said Charlotte Hitchmough, CEO of ARK.

“Not only is it illegal, but the ecological and human health risks from allowing this practice are not acceptable and proper investment in infrastructure is urgently required.”

Over 250 locals, including political figures from multiple parties, echoed a united demand for change to Thames Water’s operational practices.

Now ARK and Angling Trust have written to the UK Government and Water Services Regulation Authority (OFWAT), a water services industry regulator, with four key demands.

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The groups are asking for immediate Government intervention to place Thames Water under special measures as well as calling for an urgent, comprehensive review by OFWAT of Thames Water’s planned activities in the affected areas.

On top of this, they are also asking for immediate commencement of upgrades to sewage treatment works to prevent future sewage spills and acceleration of groundwater ingress control measures in the upcoming management plan.

A Thames Water spokesperson said: "While all discharges are unacceptable, unfortunately in some circumstances they are necessary. The consequences of not relieving pressure on the system would risk it overflowing into people's homes.

"We’ve put transparency at the heart of what we do, and we were the first water company to publish a real-time data map on our website.

"We have now published plans to upgrade 250 of our sites across the entire region, including our Marlborough and Ramsbury sites. In most cases, this will increase capacity and reduce the number of necessary discharges."