Thames Water pumped sewage into the River Thames near Marlow for more than 10 hours last night – despite a representative for the company admitting that the frequent discharges are ‘not right’ and put the health of local people and the environment at risk.

According to data from Thames Water’s storm discharge monitoring map, storm overflow was discharged from the Little Marlow Sewage Treatment Works for 10 hours and 20 minutes between 3:10pm yesterday (April 28) and 1:30am this morning, Monday, April 29.

The storm overflow system is used by the company to discharge excess waste and rainwater from sewers to nearby rivers and seas during heavy rainfall to avoid overwhelming local streets and homes.

The newest recorded discharge in Marlow comes just weeks after naturalist and TV presenter Steve Backshall found “horrifyingly” high bacteria levels in water samples taken downstream of the town’s sewage treatment works.

The samples contained E. coli, norovirus and enterovirus at “tens of thousands of times higher” than the acceptable concentrations, as well as concerning levels of nitrates and crass phage, a bacterium commonly found in the human gut.

Speaking to the Free Press last month, Mr Backshall said: “These results show that anyone who goes in this water by any means is going to get badly sick.

“The guys at Bangor (University, where the samples were tested in a lab) actually said to me, ‘Please tell us you’re not going in this river’. They described this level of sewage run-off as a death potion for the Thames.”

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Although the Environment Agency does not monitor the Thames in Little Marlow for bacteria as it is not a designated bathing area, a spokesperson for the regulatory body described the level of pollution in the water samples as “unacceptable”.

Data from the Environment Agency shows a 54 per cent increase in spills from 2022 to 2023, something the organisation said was partly due to England experiencing its sixth-wettest year on record.

In a video uploaded to Mr Backshall’s social media platforms on April 17, a representative for Thames Water agreed that it “did not seem right” that people had to log onto their computers and check the sewage map each day to see whether a new discharge had been recorded near their homes.

A spokesperson also previously told the Free Press that “taking action to improve the health of rivers” is a priority for the company.

Adding: “Pollutants, animal faeces from livestock and wildlife, along with runoff from farms and roads can also contribute to hazards found in watercourses, which is why we’d recommend reading the Government’s advice on open water swimming.

“We have experienced excessive rainfall this winter, so our storm overflow system has worked to protect customers’ homes during the wet weather by releasing diluted wastewater into rivers rather than letting it back up into people’s homes.

“We have also published plans to upgrade over 250 of our sites, including Little Marlow Sewage Treatment Works. This will improve its ability to treat the volumes of incoming sewage, reducing the need for untreated discharges in wet weather.”

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