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By Eldon Hinchliffe, Affinis Design for Faversham Creek Trust

A preliminary drawing showing the proposal for reed beds acting as an additional sewage treatment plant.

The sewage works treating Faversham’s sewage was already overloaded prior to the recent construction of large new housing estates and nothing has been done to increase capacity to cope with even more sewage. This has resulted in the continuous discharge of only partially treated sewage into Faversham Creek via an outfall that is only supposed to be used during very wet weather and on falling tides only.

This pollution of Faversham Creek cannot be allowed to continue and there is probably only limited scope for increasing the capacity of the existing works by conventional means. This continuous discharge is an ecological disaster, but there may be an ecological solution.

The land to the North-East of the sewage works, beyond Clapgate Stream is low lying and relatively flat. If this was converted into reed beds the outfall could be diverted from the creek into the new reed beds. This form of secondary treatment of the partially treated sewage would also create an ecologically rich nature reserve for invertabrates, birds and even some small mammals. This could be made into an attraction for birdwatchers if a short board walk leading to a hide was constructed.

At the northern and eastern ends of the reed beds a system of soakaways would permit the already much more purified outflow to percolate down to the aquifer, receiving more purification by soil bacteria on the way. This would top-up the aquifer and thereby help to relieve the Increasing problem of water shortages in Kent. An overflow discharge pipe from the northernmost corner of the reed beds could discharge storm surges into Faversham Creek, but these surges will have benefitted from some secondary treatment in the reed beds en route to the creek.

Admittedly this would lead to the loss of some low grade agricultural land, but a precedent has already been set by the construction of the ‘Anesco’ photovoltaic solar generating site further up Clapgate Stream about 600 metres to the South of the proposed reed beds. Why not have two entirely different ‘green’ solutions to our problems in close proximity to each other?

In Faversham the outfall even discharges during incoming tides so pollution is carried upstream to the town. Pollution of rivers is a widespread problem and in turn it leads to pollution of the sea. It is in urgent need of solution and no one method will apply everywhere. But if this reed bed supplementary treatment of sewage proves successful it could also be applied to other problematic sewage works elsewhere in Kent and beyond. This could be anywhere where there is suitable fairly level land next to an over burdened sewage treatment works; and there are certainly more than enough candidates throughout the South East of England; and beyond. These reed beds would not only clean up sewage outfalls and return the water to the aquifer; they would also act as a carbon sink and help in the fight against global warming.


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