River Ver pollution is 'unacceptable', Thames Water admits

Suspected sewage pollution in a chalk stream following heavy rainfall was "unacceptable", Thames Water said.

Data shared by the water company showed that a storm overflow in Markyate, in Hertfordshire, had been discharging into the River Ver for 850 hours.

Flamstead Parish Council said there was "a coating of brown sewage sludge" on the river as a result.

John Pritchard from the Ver Valley Society said the smell was "horrible" and sewage had flowed over fields.

Mr Pritchard said: "The general feeling is people are absolutely disgusted and they want something done about it.

"This should be a sparkling clear chalk stream."

The Environment Agency said it was investigating the pollution, which the Ver Valley Society said had been pumped into the river for more than a month.

The parish council said that horses which normally grazed in the area had been removed and that wild birds, including egret, swans and a family of geese had also disappeared as a result of the pollution.

In a statement, it said: "There is an aroma of effluent pervading parts of the village which is unacceptable.

"There are 220 chalk streams in the world, 85% of those are in England - so they are a very special and rare habitat.

"That habitat is really under threat and Thames Water are doing nothing to preserve it, in fact they are intent on destroying it at the moment as there is nothing being done to mitigate their policy of opening the flood gates to let raw sewage circumnavigate the treatment works as they claim to have no alternative."

Thames Water said: "We regard all discharges as unacceptable and taking action to improve the health of rivers is a key focus for us. We appreciate how much our waterways are loved and we want everyone to be able to enjoy them. "We have published plans to upgrade over 250 of our sites, including our Markyate sewage treatment works. This will improve performance and reduce the number of overflows during heavy rainfall."

An Environment Agency spokesperson said its officers had visited the site to take samples and that its investigation into the cause remained ongoing.

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