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Sewage in Faversham Creek: Facts and Faeces

by Brian Pain

Concern is growing over the polluted nature of our Creek. The Faversham Times front page on the 27th June, led with Mystery in waters of Creek where they reported that “the brown substance on surface after heavy rainfall leads to speculation over its origin”.

This is almost certainly caused by the Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) that discharge into the waterway during sustained heavy rainfall. There are five licensed CSOs in Faversham Creek operated by Southern Water and Licensed by the Environment Agency

These operate during periods of heavy rainfall when the surface water drains and the ancient sewers are overwhelmed and the CSOs automatically open and raw sewage is discharged directly into the Creek. The incidents are logged by Southern Water and reported to the Environment Agency but details are difficult to obtain by members of the public. From what information we have been able to obtain is transpires that:

The CSO which discharges into the Creek at Iron Wharf has operated with increasing regularity over recent years as has the one discharging into the basin above the bridge. During November, the outflow at the Sewage Works discharged a mixture of surface water and sewage for a continuous period of over 90 hours! This, we understand, is the only monitored outflow on the Creek so it is quite possible that the overall untreated sewage being poured into our relatively tiny waterway is much higher.

This worrying state will almost certainly get worse in the future due to:

  1. The lack of investment in, or expansion of the Southern Water operated sewage works, alongside Faversham Creek above Nagden, despite the huge increase in local house building schemes and which, to make matters worse, nearly, if not always, fail to incorporate adequate surface water retention infrastructure on site.

  2. The more frequent periods of heavy rain we now experience when our antiquated drains and sewers are overwhelmed.

  3. The stark fact that while Southern Water is not compelled to cease using the C.S.O.s, they have very little financial incentive to act as they have been made to do so along the beaches. Normally one would expect the Environment Agency to prosecute such polluters not continue to license their activities.

Rather depressingly, the privately-owned Southern Water has written in its latest annual report that they “aim” to eradicate the use of CSOs by 2040, by which time the Creek could be nothing much better than an open sewer. The success in London where the construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel, where over 95% of the CSO discharges will be diverted, has helped to result in the Thames being one the cleanest urban rivers in Europe and where in London and above, it is safe to swim again.

We will be inviting Southern Water, who have a lamentable record of serious incidents of pollution, to respond to our concerns and say when the CSOs discharging into our Creek will be permanently closed. Then the lofty statement they made this year in their glossy annual report:

“The infrastructure of our wastewater treatment works is critical if we are to ensure the water we recycle to our rivers streams and seas does not harm the environment and the delicate wildlife habitats it supports.”

Will perhaps carry more weight. As John Major once famously said “fine words do not butter a parsnip.”

We would urge our local councils to strenuously push the case for action by Southern Water and Peel Ports to act now to start cleaning up our little waterway. It is rather obscene that privately owned water companies should continue to make healthy profits while dumping sewage into the Creek.

Other serious causes of local pollution will be reported in future editions of the Eye.


A more comprehensive report on Sources of Pollution in Faversham Creek by Bob Telford will soon be available.


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