Wessex Water plans to cut Saltford sewage discharges

WESSEX Water has revealed plans to cut the amount of raw sewage being discharged into the River Avon at Saltford.

The company aims to spend nearly £1 million on reducing the automatic operation of a storm overflow along the river to the east of the village, while also helping to protect wildlife and the environment near its banks.

It wants to build new underground storage on a field next to Saltford Rowing Centre off the A4 to hold excess water from combined sewers during heavy storms.

The scheme will also include tree and scrub planting in the Saltford area and the installation of two bird boxes.

The project is outlined as part of a planning application submitted to Bath & North East Somerset Council, seeking permission for a new access to the field where the subterranean tank will be housed just off the main Bath Road.

The new shared entrance would be used by vehicles arriving to maintain the storage tank, as well as the rowing club, which already uses the area as an additional car park during regattas and other race events, with the existing entrance closed off.

Should the application be successful, the five-month project is expected to get under way in May this year.

Project manager Andre Laranjeira said: “The new tank will be able to host 50,000 litres of water flows from combined sewers, which carry both foul water from home and businesses and rain run-off, during heavy storms.

“This water can later be returned to the sewer and pumped onwards to nearby Saltford Water Recycling Centre for treatment and safe return to the environment.

“As well as preventing the sewer system from becoming overwhelmed and potentially causing local flooding, the extra storage will also aim to significantly reduce the automatic operation of a nearby overflow into the River Avon.”

Reports in the Voice last year highlighted readers’ concerns about untreated sewage being discharged in the area after heavy rain.

A local angler told us how he had found sanitary towels and wet wipes strewn along the riverbank in Saltford.

Then a couple reported seeing sewage being discharged onto a busy Keynsham footpath from a Wessex Water pumping station, resulting in toilet paper, wet wipes, sanitary items and used condoms being caught in the fencing surrounding the facility. They also said they had seen sewage on local playing fields during earlier flooding.

For the Saltford project, Wessex Water will team up with Bath Spa University to relocate a population of reptiles, including slow worms and grass snakes, from the site, creating three new turf-covered log piles as places of hibernation for them at the nearby campus.

Wessex Water ecologist Freya McCarthy said: “This collaboration will provide the students with the opportunity to experience practical conservation practices and help them to understand the key principles around how we protect and enhance our local wildlife.’’

With areas of grassland, bramble and a sycamore tree being disrupted by the proposed new access, Wessex Water will also install the bird boxes at the site, as well as replanting tree and scrub within its nearby water recycling centre off Mead Lane, which the company says will provide a biodiversity net gain of nearly 20 per cent.

The company has announced it is investing £3 million a month until 2025 to tackle overflows in the region that have previously discharged most frequently. 

Subject to approval from regulators, Wessex Water also intends to invest £400 million towards reducing overflow operation between 2025 and 2030. 

Pictured, the River Avon at The Shallows, Saltford, after the floods of January 2023.