A WATER company spilled raw sewage into "unique" sensitive streams in North Hampshire on more than 500 occasions last year, data has revealed.

Thames Water dumped untreated sewage into the Thames tributaries, which includes sensitive streams including the Rivers Loddon, Whitewater and Hart, for more than 6,500 hours in 2020.

The total duration of the spillages when added together equates to roughly nine months.

The data has been labelled as "truly horrific" by a councillor who has called for a pause in housebuilding in the borough to allow "the sand to settle" and the water quality to recover.

Meanwhile, Thames Water said that discharges of untreated sewage are "simply unacceptable even when they are legally permitted".

Data from the government, and compiled by the Rivers Trust, relating to 12 sewer storm overflows in 2020 revealed the sheer scale of the spills.

Basingstoke Gazette: Basingstoke's sewage treatment worksBasingstoke's sewage treatment works

It covers much of the North Hampshire region, from Wash Water in the west (1,302 hours of spillage) to Hartley Wintney in the east (442 hours).

Amongst them is Basingstoke's sewage treatment works (STW), which saw raw, untreated sewage dumped into the River Loddon for 410 hours in 2020.

And the STW north of Kingsclere had the highest amount of spills in this region in 2020 - with 105 counted dumps at 1,669 hours.

Speaking to The Gazette, Cllr Onnalee Cubitt, who represents Basing and Upton Grey and has long campaigned for the River Loddon to be cherished, was shocked to hear the data.

Basingstoke Gazette: Kingsclere sewage treatment works, which spilled sewage on 105 occassions in 2020Kingsclere sewage treatment works, which spilled sewage on 105 occassions in 2020

She had previously told public meetings about how Basingstoke's STW had dumped raw sewage for 410 hours in 2020, but was concerned over the "cumulative impact" on the wider environment.

Cllr Cubitt told this newspaper: "It is horrific. If that is true, that is truly horrific.

"I am really lost for words at the moment because there is a legal obligation to make the River Loddon at good status by 2027."

The River Loddon is a highly treasured chalk stream that has been recognised as England's equivalent to the rainforests. Chalk streams such as this are incredibly unique - there are only about 200 in the world.

The data

  • West Heath (Bow Brook, which flows into River Loddon): 74 spills, 1138.78 hours
  • Kingsclere STW (Kingsclere Brook, which flows into River Enborne): 105 spills, 1669.61 hours
  • Crooked Billet, Hook (River Whitewater): 19 spills, 42.85 hours
  • Sherfield-on-Loddon (Bow Brook, which flows into River Loddon): 34 spills, 393.36 hours
  • Basingstoke STW (River Loddon): 40 spills, 410.85 hours
  • Hartley Wintney STW (River Hart): 41 spills, 442.81 hours
  • Wedmans Lane, Rotherwick (eventually flows into River Whitewater): 6 spills, 37.43 hours
  • Water End, near Andwell (Lyde River): 5 spills, 25.73 hours
  • St Stephens Hall, near Little London (Bow Brook, which flows into River Loddon): 51 spills, 283.64 hours
  • Wash Water STW (River Enborne): 90 spills, 1302.59 hours
  • Silchester (Silchester Brook, which flows into River Kennet): 43 spills, 828.18 hours
  • Swains Road, Tadley (Silchester Brook, which flows into River Kennet): 4 spills, 1.28 hours

The Loddon was also labelled the 'Cinderella river' by the Wildlife Trust, as it is so hard working and beautiful but often overlooked.

Describing what the River Loddon means to her, Cllr Cubitt said: "It is the green lung of our part of Hampshire. It is so important and the flood plains are so important.

"It is one of the jewels of the chalk rivers.

"It doesn't get anywhere near the same attention as it should."

Speaking about the plans to build up to 18,000 new homes in Basingstoke and Deane, including many in the Loddon valley, Cllr Cubitt said: "We need to pause and let the sand settle. That doesn't mean I am a NIMBY.

Basingstoke Gazette: The River Loddon (Photo: Darren Burton)The River Loddon (Photo: Darren Burton)

"People who are new to Basingstoke come to Basingstoke because they like Basingstoke. They didn't come to Basingstoke to be in the suburbs of Reading.

"I think Basingstoke is very special. There are lots of specifics that could be improved, but I don't think the answer is to be the second highest house-building borough in the country in perpetuity.

"I think we have done our part and we have just got to let the water levels to be resolved before we go and increase the pollution."

Water companies are allowed to release untreated waste when the system becomes overwhelmed. It prevents sewage from backing up into houses and through manhole covers into the street. The news hit the headlines earlier this year when the government ordered its MPs, including Basingstoke's Maria Miller, to vote against an amendment that would have banned water companies from doing this.

Basingstoke Gazette: The River Loddon at Old Basing (Photo: Roy Maddocks)The River Loddon at Old Basing (Photo: Roy Maddocks)

The amendment was proposed by the Duke of Wellington, who grew up near the River Loddon. Shortly after it failed, the government made a U-turn of sorts, putting forward an amendment of their own which would “secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows”.

Responding to the data, a Thames Water spokesperson said: “Our aim will always be to try and do the right thing for rivers and for the communities who love and value them. It’s our view that discharges of untreated sewage are simply unacceptable, even when they are legally permitted, and we’ll work with the government, Ofwat and the Environment Agency to accelerate work to stop them being necessary.

“We have an unprecedented amount of investment directed towards safeguarding our rivers and streams. Between 2020 and 2025 we are spending £1.25 billion on maintaining and improving our operational sites, including contributing to the health of 745km of rivers across London and the Thames Valley. We have a long way to go – and we certainly can’t do it on our own – but the ambition is clear.”

The company also said that allowing new housing developments to automatically connect to the sewer network will put increased pressure on infrastructure.