Kicking up a stink about sewage

A Berwick resident has taken his concerns about raw sewage to the heart of Northumberland County Council.

Thursday, 19th August 2021, 11:33 am
Updated Thursday, 19th August 2021, 11:34 am
One of the photographs of the sewage submitted to the authorities by Alistair McDonald.

Alistair McDonald had reported what he described as “raw sewage in the street and river” in the Carr Rock area of the town to the local authority and Nothumbrian Water earlier this month.

This included sewage water bursting out of a manhole cover.

He was disappointed with the response and so decided last Thursday (August 12) to take a sample of the foul water in a parcel to County Hall in Morpeth.

Mr McDonald was then visited by Northumbria Police last Friday evening. Although officers said they believe no criminal offence was committed, they did offer words of advice as his actions had caused some upset to council workers.

He said: “Although I hope that the issue can be looked at urgently through co-operation between the authorities and residents, I took the sample to County Hall to stress that this is something they can’t ignore.

“Rather than having to keep coming out when it is reported by us, they need to be proactive to make improvements to avoid harm to the environment in this area.

“Given the range of items being flushed today, the risk of modern sewage is worse than the risk from sewage 50 years ago.

“These items stay within the river area in Berwick, so the problem builds.”

A Northumbrian Water spokesman said: “On August 5, 2021, we were made aware of Mr McDonald’s concerns and our teams responded immediately.

“Upon initial inspection, our technical support adviser did not see any flooding from the manhole. However, we are sending a team out again to ensure that everything is operating as it should.

“Our teams also checked the River Tweed, which showed no sign of any pollution when we were on site. However, after further checking our data showed that there was a discharge at the time Mr McDonald was referring to.

“In order to protect our customers’ homes, at times of heavy rainfall we use storm overflows as a relief valve on our sewer network – carried out with permission from the Environment Agency.

“We completely understand the concerns that Mr McDonald has, however storm overflows are only used as a last resort and every effort is made to protect the environment.

“These storm overflows are connected to the environment via large pipes. Under heavy rainfall conditions, the storm overflows will discharge to the environment through these large pipes what is largely rainwater, mixed with some of the contents of our sewer network from the area affected.

“Studies in the region have shown the contents of these discharges to be as little as less than one per cent wastewater, and in the last bathing water classifications released by DEFRA, 33 of the North East’s 34 designated bathing waters achieved either ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ ratings – with Spittal being in the ‘Good’ category.

“Following our investigations, the technical support adviser contacted Mr McDonald to clarify our findings and explain matters.”

A Northumbria Police spokesman said: “We can confirm we received a report that a parcel containing raw sewage had been delivered to the council offices in Morpeth.

“We visited the sender to offer words of advice as his actions had caused some upset to council workers. However, we do not believe any criminal offences have been committed.”

A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “The council expects all staff to be able to do their jobs without being concerned for their welfare.

“Due to the offensive contents of the package and the manner it was delivered to County Hall, we took the decision to notify Northumbria Police.”