Plumbing misconnections behind pollution in nature reserve

After months of hunting, Thames Water has won the battle to stop pollution flowing into the Lye Valley Nature Reserve in Oxford. A number of properties on the neighbouring Slade estate had been misconnected, meaning pipes which should have sent water for treatment were in fact ending up in Boundary Brook. As a result, waste from washing machines, dishwashers, sinks and – worst of all – toilets, was flowing towards the scientifically important habitat.

With more than 800 homes and businesses connected to the pipe system, Thames Water engineers had to work with residents to discover the exact properties which were causing the problem.

Thames Water’s Stephen Barry comments: “After several months of hard work, we’re delighted to have this resolved. The waste coming into Boundary Brook could have had a real long-term environmental impact so we were determined to get to the bottom of this complex issue. Misconnections can be a big problem for local rivers and streams so we would urge anyone having a new appliance, such as a washing machine installed, to make sure they check it has been connected correctly.”

The outlet has now been given the all clear following inspections of the site.

Robert Davis, an environment officer for the Environment Agency in Oxfordshire, says: “The Environment Agency welcomes the work done to identify several sources of third-party pollution leading to Lye Valley Nature Reserve, and clear them. The rich variety of local wildlife will benefit from better water quality, which contributes to a nicer environment for people to visit.”

Across the Thames region, plumbing mistakes result in up to one in ten households misconnecting their waste appliances to the surface water system. As a result of these misconnections, the equivalent of 1.8 Olympic-size swimming pools of wastewater wrongly enters the region’s rivers and streams every day.

Overall responsibility for misconnections lies with the property owner, so it is important whenever someone is having a new washing machine, or any other appliance which drains water into the network, installed it is connected properly.

Thames Water recently submitted its £11.7 billion business plan for 2020-25, which includes a commitment to reduce pollution by 18%.

For more information about how to spot misconnections, visit:

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