CALSTOCK Parish Council is considering taking matters into its own hands and testing the Tamar’s water quality after their request to gather sewage spill data from South West Water was denied.

The council submitted a freedom of information request in January to SWW to gather individual sewage spill data from the 12 sewage overflows in the Calstock Parish in 2021. They wished to match the data with the rainfall data to observe whether sewage was released at periods when it wasn’t raining in their continued campaign to put pressure on the water company to clean up the river.

In 2021 there was 12,566 hours of spills in 1083 incidents from the 12 combined sewage overflows in Calstock parish.

The FOI has been denied by SWW, forcing the council to take matters into their own hands.

Councillor Alastair Tinto said: ‘It came as no surprise really that they refused to give us this data. The whole thing is loaded in favour of the company.

‘This is the sort of end point for us getting information out of SWW about their event spills and in the end we managed to get it to the information commissioner, but they supported SWW in refusing our FOI request.’

Alastair proceeded to explain that the argument for the refusal of disclosure was that water services regulator, Ofwat is currently conducting a nationwide investigation on spills from sewage outlets and that revealing the information about the 12 overflows in Calstock Parish might ‘jeopardise the investigation.’

Alastair continued: ‘I pointed out that Thames Water was making spill data available in real time and I also referred to public interest and concerns about sewage discharge in relation to swimming and public use of the river and we felt that that outweighed their right to withhold information. But we’re not going to get any further.

‘Maybe now’s the time to try and get a citizen science project.

‘If we can’t get the data from SWW of the damage sewage overflow is doing to our rivers, then maybe we could do some testing.’

According to Cllr Tinto, the Environment Agency haven’t tested the water in the Calstock area since 2011 which has been put down to government cuts.

At the recent council meeting Cllr Tinto voiced the proposal to look into setting up the citizen science project which would involve volunteers testing the water and gathering data.

Cllr Tinto said: ‘It’s not easy.

‘We would have to have a group of volunteers. They would have to be very scrupulous as to how they collected the data so that it wasn’t contaminated and then we would have to send if off for testing and I think that’s not cheap.

‘I’ve asked Cllr Richard Newton Chance to look into the possibility of having a citizen science project.

‘We could use the data in various ways. We could send it the EA to say look this is the state of pollution in our rivers, we could send it to SWW or our local MP and we could use it to raise awareness.

‘It’s about trying to put pressure on water companies to do something about the river pollution.’