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Sewage makes River Thames 'potentially hazardous'
THE RIVER Thames around Marlow is potentially hazardous to users because of sewage, the Environment Agency has admitted.
A group, responsible for river users from Henley through to Maidenhead, said they have been raising concerns since September after they saw sewage going into the Thames from an outfall pipe at Little Marlow.
EA spokesman Ash Dobson said: "Despite great improvements in water quality on the River Thames, there is still a potential hazard from sewer overflows that occur along the length of the river (not just in the tidal stretch).
"Sewer overflows are essential because they help prevent sewage backing up and flooding people’s homes when the sewers are inundated following heavy rainfall."
"Both treated and untreated sewage effluent can and does flow into the Thames. Treated sewage is not disinfected - it is just treated to remove solids and faecal matter."
Regarding the sewerage treatment works at Little Marlow, Mr Dobson said: "It receives raw sewage from the foul sewerage network, treats it to an acceptable standard and then discharges the effluent into the river.
"The Environment Agency’s role is to ensure that these discharges are not harmful to the environment."
EA staff visited the Little Marlow sewage works on February 4 after residents reported pollution and found a pipe discharging final, treated, effluent had developed a fault.
Tests run along with the Local Authorities Environmental Health team, responsible for assessing risks to human health, showed very low ammonia, Biochemical Oxygen Demand and no solids or rag present.
A burst sewage pipe was flowing into flooded fields in Little Marlow, sparking concern among villagers last month.
Mr Dobson said: "The sewage that has leaked onto the field is treated, and was destined for the River Thames. No extra sewage has entered the river as a result of this fault."
Officials are continuing a clean up process.
Bob King, Chairman of River User Group 6, said: "My concern is that everybody is aware that sewage is going into the river, albeit in a fairly minute amount. It's making people aware that what looks like clean water going into the river, is actually sewage.
"In the summer the water is quite clean and clear and people think it's clean to swim in. That stretch from Little Marlow down to Bourne End is a very popular place.
"You've got Spade Oak with a lot of people paddling in the water there, a lot of people swim in the water. There's the sailing club, which has a lot of kids mucking about in boats that capsize just down from where the outfall is at Little Marlow.
"There are also a large number of novice rowers using the stretch between Longridge Water Sports Centre and Cookham."
The EA said there are risks associated with swimming in any open watercourse and the Thames is not designated bathing water.
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