Thames Water have vowed to increase sewage treatment capacity as part of their efforts to combat sewage discharges in the River Chess.

A public meeting was held at Sarratt Village Hall on Friday (September 25) to discuss the ongoing sewage discharges at the River Chess within the last year.

Paul Jennings the chairman of the River Chess Association says since September 2019, there has been 67 incidents of sewage discharges – with it being recorded every month except for November, December in 2019 and now September this year.

Richard Aylard, the sustainability director for Thames Water, attended the meeting to discuss what efforts were being made to prevent this.

South West Herts MP Gagan Mohindra and several councillors, residents and landowners were also at the public meeting.

Watford Observer:

Some more sewage discharge at Latimer Park

Thames Water said they will increase the capacity at the Chesham Sewage Treatment Works by 30 per cent over the next two years, which should lessen storm water sewage discharge.

It was said that Thames Water began investigations over the course of the summer on the groundwater and river water ingress into the sewage network, which may have contributed to the large sewage discharges in 2014 and this year.

Cameras are being placed in the sewage network to identify where these faults lie, and work to line the damaged pipes should start later this year.

Mr Jennings, the River Chess Association chairman, said: “The increase in capacity is all about making the system more robust so that the expected expansion in housing and population in the area can actually happen.

“Because at the moment you should not be building new houses and increasing the population because you have a major piece of insufficient infrastructure which can’t cope with the existing situation.”

The South West Herts MP also urged Thames Water to look into installing additional stormwater storage tanks, which would make any further sewage discharges unlikely. But at the moment it is unclear whether this suggestion has been taken on board.

Thames Water also announced they will stop abstraction at the Hawridge pumping station by 2024. Affinity Water also announced on Sunday (September 27) that they will be closing two pumping stations at the top of the River Chess, which means abstraction is estimated to be cut by 50 per cent by the River Chess.

Watford Observer:

Left to right: Paul Jennings; Jake Rigg – Director of Corporate Affairs; Allen Beechey – Chalk Streams Project Team; Pauline Walsh; Tony Cocker - Affinity Water Chairman; Dr Elaine King - Chief Executive of the Chilterns Conservation Board.

Marking the event, Affinity Water Chief Executive Pauline Walsh said: “Chalk streams are a precious part of our local and national heritage and a priceless natural resource.

“This is the decade where we will either protect and enhance the environment for every generation or fall further behind. We recognise this is not a new issue, but it is clear that today we need to act with urgency. We need to work differently to ensure that we can build on the actions in the Chess, Ver and Mimram, as soon as possible, to benefit all of our chalk rivers.”

The River Chess Association chairman said: "We are extremely fortunate to have the River Chess chalk stream on our doorstep, it has proved to be a very popular destination during these recent trying times, a great escape for mind and body.

“So, we applaud Affinity Water for taking this landmark action. Flow is the essential element of any river, reducing abstraction is a great first step.”