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SAGLUV Progress Report

Sewage Action Group for the Lambourn Upper Valley

Covering the villages of Upper Lambourn, Lambourn, Eastbury, East Garston and Great Shefford

 

Progress Report - April 2024

 

TWO NETWORKS – ONE PRESSURE GROUP

As SAGLUV has developed over the last few weeks, it has become even clearer that we are dealing with two separate sewage networks at the upper end of the Valley. Specific issues exist for each network, requiring particular resolutions. Groundwater flooding is, of course, the common root cause. In order to maintain an effective focus on each of the two networks the group will therefore operate in two divisions. One will deal with the Lambourn & Upper Lambourn (LUL) network, and the other with the Eastbury, East Garston & Great Shefford (EEGS) network. The original plan was to involve the respective Parish Councils, however the necessary PC formalities and protocols that would have had to be followed, do not fit with an active pressure group. Because of this, Lambourn PC members have withdrawn from SAGLUV.

 

There is no longer any Parish Council representation in SAGLUV. All members are independent residents, although some members happen to be councillors as well. SAGLUV and the Parish Councils will continue to share information and co-operate to achieve the common objective of Clear Sewers and Clean Rivers.

 

The SAGLUV Steering Committee will be meeting shortly to decide how it will proceed in order to pick up the work that Lambourn PC representatives have been doing. There are important sewage issues facing Lambourn and Upper Lambourn, which need to be addressed urgently. We will report on this in the coming weeks.

 

However, good progress has been made with the work of SAGLUV (EEGS), and that is the focus of this report.

 

ENGAGEMENT WITH THAMES WATER EXECUTIVES

As previously communicated, SAGLUV held a meeting with Thames Water Executive Directors in late March, at which there was a constructive exchange of information and feedback. It was interesting, and encouraging, to hear that within the whole of the TW catchment, our area is one of two top priorities for TW in terms of resolving sewage issues.

 

FOLLOW-UP MEETING WITH TW REGIONAL ENGINEERING TEAM

Further to that meeting, the SAGLUV (EEGS) Team of Andrew, Louisa, Tony, Sue, and Martyn, met on 18 April with the TW Senior Regional Network and Engineering Team. This was a highly focussed, three hour session, which covered many details of the complex technical challenges specific to each village in the EEGS area. Previous and on-going TW efforts were included, but an understanding of future plans was a prime aspect of the discussions.

 

THE HARSH REALITY – LONGER TERM FIXES

To manage expectations, we need to be clear: There are no “instant miracle” solutions for all of the current problems.  However SAGLUV is determined that a focussed, sustained effort of productive dialog with TW will make a difference, some in the short term, but mostly in the longer term. There are many factors that adversely affect the service TW provide. SAGLUV’s job is to determine which of those factors are within TW’s control, and to apply pressure in respect of them, to bring about improvements.  

 

HEADLINES:

·       No silver bullet is available to relieve all immediate problems.

·       Some short term improvements are feasible, however, with re-focussed TW management of tankering operation logistics (including sub-contractors).

·       In the longer term, reduction of groundwater infiltration into the TW pipe-network is the primary strategy. TW have authorised funding confirmed for a significant amount of relining of sewers and sealing of manholes as follows:

o   Eastbury:                  450m of underground pipe relining + leak reduction at 9 manholes

o   East Garston:            50m of underground pipe relining

o   Great Shefford:        48m of underground pipe relining + leak reduction at 4 manholes

(Caveat: The precarious corporate financial position at TW may, in the worst scenario, adversely affect completion of this program).

·       Investigations, using cameras, have shown that the relining carried out in recent years, using the latest technology, has been successful in preventing infiltration.

·       Further infiltration investigations will be carried out as soon as groundwater levels drop sufficiently.

·       Some complex engineering issues have been highlighted as a result of call-outs this Winter. These are proving to be difficult to understand and resolve. TW plan detailed investigations to find solutions.

·       Clearly, our part of the Valley is a priority area for TW at regional and corporate levels.

·       SAGLUV and TW will continue with regular progress review meetings throughout 2024.

 

The following sections of this report set out the results of the meetings in more detail in respect of each village.

 

OVERVIEW

The primary intention for TW, in all of the villages, is to stop the sewage pipes being inundated with water (from groundwater sources, either direct from springs, or via the river channel). The TW strategy is to re-line pipes, seal leaks at other points, and deal with flows from private connections, in order to stop/reduce infiltration. A reduction of the infiltration volumes, to the point where the Pumping Stations are not over-whelmed, will solve the majority of problems.


Great Shefford:

·       It was made clear to TW that it was totally unacceptable that around 20 homes have been suffering from unusable sanitary facilities.

·       TW cautiously believe that a 24/7 tanker relay should solve the problem, and in practice, that does seem to be the case. However, there are often gaps in the tanker relay which immediately cause sewer problems. Stricter control of the tanker deployment is essential.

·       Once TW are sure the 24/7 relay is operating as planned, they will re-assess whether or not additional mitigation actions should be taken.

·       Concerned that the area south of the Wantage Road opposite Station Road and Miller's Field, is served by tail end pipe work which may be contributing to the problems. This needs clarification, and TW will be investigating this area for a possible short/longer term solution.

·       TW are convinced that the Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Scheme will significantly help reduce groundwater infiltration in future years, as they believe the temporary fix has already prevented the situation from being even worse than has been experienced.

·       TW have committed funds in 2024 to complete 48m of relining with 4 manholes to be re-sealed

 

GENERAL ISSUES

·       SAGLUV believe that a number of problems arise from the service provided by Lanes contractors. Call-out Response crews have not been effective in many cases, a criticism acknowledge by TW. This will be the subject of a separate paper prepared by SAGLUV to present to TW

·       TW admit that their automated Customer Reporting System is flawed, resulting in false notification of job closures. TW are committed to making the necessary IT system changes in the coming months. A manual workaround is supposed to be in place, although this is not fool proof.

·       Another point to be considered is sewer cleaning. SAGLUV believe that a number of the problems are caused by blockages, despite what we are told at the time of reporting. More regular sewer cleaning before and during these high groundwater periods, surely must help.

 

WATER POLLUTION MONITORING

·       SAGLUV have established a liaison with Action for the River Kennet (ARK). ARK has been fighting for improvements in the Kennet catchment area for 30 years. They have an on-going task, measuring bacteria from river water samples taken at two locations in Lambourn. SAGLUV is cooperating with ARK on this and will replicate the water testing in Eastbury imminently, as a one-off “snap-shot” measurement of pollution. With advice from ARK, and other sources, the intention is to define a standardised method for taking samples, getting them analysed, and for reporting results. This would be applied across the SAGLUV villages, dependent upon training, costs of equipment and cost of analysis. With more data, from unified monitoring protocols, the SAGLUV-ARK results will have greater credibility, enhancing the impact upon both TW and the Environment Agency. The influence of sewage pollution upon the chalk stream ecology of the River Lambourn is of key interest to SAGLUV, both in itself, and as a tool to demonstrate the impacts of TW network inundation.

 

SAGLUV

22 April 2024



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