Council Calls for River Clean Up

Following the discovery of sewage fungus in Queen Emma’s Dyke, Colwell Brook and the River Windrush, Witney Town Council has written to Thames Water expressing its deep concern about sewage being released and pumped into our local rivers and watercourses. The letter also comments on fears concerning the damage to the health of the bodies of water and associated health risks to residents of the town and their pets who may come into contact with the pollution. It ends by requesting that Thames Water, with the Environment Agency, takes urgent steps to curtail this and provides a clear and credible response to prevent this situation occurring again, by the end of this year.

A second letter is being penned to the Environment Agency to urge them to review and monitor the situation and requesting assurances that everything possible is being done to remedy the situation.

The letters were proposed in a motion to Council on Monday evening, by Councillor Andrew Prosser and seconded by Councillor Ruth Smith.

Vice Chair of the Planning and Development Committee, Cllr Prosser says;

Recent events have demonstrated that the current infrastructure and enforcement processes for the treatment of sewage here are not fit for purpose, and I am seriously concerned about the potential impacts on residents, their pets, and aquatic life in the river itself.  Thames Water and the Environment Agency need to take urgent remedial steps, and to detail what actions they planning to take to prevent sewage pollution of our rivers and water courses in the future”

As riparian owners of the Queen Emma’s Dyke Stream and part of the River Windrush that flows through the Lake and Country Park area, the Town Council has chosen to install signage to highlight the danger of the pollution to dogs entering the water in this area and in Colwell Brook which feeds in. The signs alert dog walkers of the existence of treated sewage in the water and advises that dogs should not enter the water. Dogs that have been in the river or stream should be discouraged from entering the lake in order to minimise the risk of the spread of pollution.


The lake itself is self-contained and as such less likely to be polluted, although heavy rainfall recently caused some flooding on the Eastern side of the lake from the river, which then caused a small breach in the bank and flowed out over the Western edge and into the dyke. This is unlikely to have caused any significant pollution to the lake.

Vice Chair of Climate and Biodiversity and Chair of Planning and Development, Cllr Ruth Smith adds;

“We are working with the Windrush Against Sewage Pollution group to keep abreast of the current strain on the sewage system and likely impact of new developments. As a Town Council, we are speaking up for the concerns of residents and we intend to do all we can to insist that our sewage infrastructure meets 21st century health expectations and restores our beautiful river and streams”. 

Witney Town Council is regularly inspecting the Lake & Country park and monitoring the situation. They ask members of the public to remain vigilant and report any incidents or concerns to the Environment Agency using their Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60 (Freephone 24hr service).