SEWAGE discharge levels in the Tamar Valley are sparking upset in the local community as raw sewage spills into the local bathing and recreational spots.

Figures from 2021 South West Water data are highlighting the problem of sewage overflow from sewage works across the area.

A sewage map provided by the Rivers Trust revealed that in 2021 at the Metherell sewage works, the sewer storm overflow spilled 166 times for a total of 3,648 hours (averaging around 10 hours a day) discharging into the Tributary of the River Tamar. This is an increase from 2020 where the same outfall was 122 spills for 2,675 hours. The SWW data reveals that this isn’t just happening at Metherell, sewage discharge levels are high from Bere Alston to Chilsworthy.

Chilsworthy ranked top of the list with data revealing the highest level of 316 spills totalling 4,140 hours (11.34 hours a day) in 2021. The data on the sewage map shows that in the Tamar Valley area ‘15 SWW assets were responsible for a total of 20,309 hours of sewage discharge, so that’s well over two years’ worth of untreated sewage discharging’, said Simon Browning from The Rivers Trust.

The Rivers Trust sewage map can be found here:

Simon Browning said: ‘There’s a lot of sewage going into our rivers. Sewage spills are only meant to happen about three or four times a year. That amount of sewage going into rivers isn’t ideal and raw sewage going into rivers is not good for anybody.

‘There is a quite noticeable area between Bere Alston and Chilsworthy. This could be an indicator that the sewage works isn’t coping well. That the sewage treatment is over capacity.’

The amount of sewage entering our rivers is worrying, say local residents, given the areas of the Tamar that are situated near these sewage treatment works such as Cotehele Quay and Calstock are popular bathing, canoeing and recreational areas.

Calstock parish councillor, Andrew Brown a Metherell resident whose property is situated downstream from Metherell sewage works is concerned about the amount of sewage ending up in Morden stream, the stream that runs through his property.

Morden stream runs through Comfort Woods at the Cotehele estate before joining the River Tamar. Andrew said: ‘My children used to swim in the stream all the time. We want our children to be able to swim in clean water.

‘They are licensed to put sewage in the water. This is not pollution, it’s licensed discharge. As an individual, I’m powerless.’

Alastair Tinto, councillor for the Calstock ward echoes Andrew’s concerns and said: ‘I think the level of discharges in the Tamar in 2021 is very concerning. We have a meeting next week with South West Water and the Environment Agency and I have put that data to them and I have asked them to discuss that data with us.’

A South West Water spokesperson said: ‘In April we announced WaterFit, our plans to protect rivers and seas together. WaterFit will dramatically reduce our use of storm overflows, maintain our region’s excellent bathing water quality standards all year round and reduce and then remove our impact on river water quality by 2030.

‘Working with partners and customers WaterFit will begin to deliver the change we all want to see.’

The Environment Agency said: ‘The Environment Agency currently has a major national investigation underway looking at the performance of storm overflows, which includes assets owned by SWW, though this is in its early stages of investigation.

‘If anyone has any concerns about the Morden stream, they can report them to our 24 hour helpline on 0800 807060’.’

For more information on storm overflows, go to: