West Oxfordshire councillors from all parties have united behind efforts to hold Thames Water's feet to the fire over sewage dumping.

Protests took place in Oxford on January 23 over the frequency the water company releases raw sewage into the Thames.

Thames Water’s sustainability director Richard Aylard acknowledges the release of untreated sewage is “unacceptable” and says a video that appears to show such pollution emanating from the firm’s treatment works in Cassington is being investigated. 

Other releases from Witney Sewage Treatment Works are also under investigation.

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Now councillors are pushing for “greater accountability” from Thames Water over its record.

Councillor Andy Graham put forward a motion for the council to request “data on all of their sewage plants, including both their historical and future maintenance and expansion plans”, and “much clearer data on what sewage is being dumped and where and when”. 

However, cross-party talks on the morning of the council meeting on January 26 led to the matter being deferred for a month “to strengthen the proposition and… obtain better information” according to vice-chair Alex Postan.

Mr Graham said: “While the issue raised in the motion is still pertinent, in the interests of getting the best for our residents, to ensure we get greater accountability and address the issues that have bedevilled us for some time, we will further it together to make sure we get a robust response and positive outcome from Thames Water.”

It was also announced that information sessions for “all councillors” are scheduled to take place in April or May. 

Norman MacRae, West Oxfordshire’s cabinet member for environment, said: “I am very pleased to announce that at the request of Thames Water, through the leader of the county council, we have agreed to facilitate surgeries for the benefit of parish councillors, parish clerks and district councillors. 

“The original request from Thames Water was simply to have a room here at Woodgreen to hold the meetings but we have moved forward to enhance that to make it a multi-agency event. 

“We are all acutely aware of the need for a strong, open dialogue with fellow councillors at all levels in the district and Thames Water.”

Mr MacRae went on to “strongly emphasise” that they are “intended to be educational and informative rather than adversarial” but plans for the public and councillors to be able to challenge Thames Water and bodies such as the Environment Agency at a Water Day, a public event that he says allows for “full, frank, robust, very open and, dare I say, heated discussion”, are also in the pipeline.

“It lets everyone put their concerns forward and the agencies reply as to where we are straight from the horse’s mouth,” he added.