UK town plagued by foul smell of raw sewage which has ‘ruined’ residents’ summer

Residents living in Camberley have been plagued by a foul smell which locals have complained has “blighting people’s summer”.

The source of the stink is reported to be a large tank of raw sewage which is in the process of being treated.

Surrey Heath Borough Council said Thames Water had “failed repeatedly to put in place reliable, suitable and sufficient odour mitigation measures”.

The untreated sewage was reportedly moved onto the site from other locations as an emergency measure.

The source of the smell was established as a large tank of untreated sewage moved onto the site from other locations as an emergency measure.

Health officers from the council claimed that a large tank of untreated sewage that had been moved onto site from other locations as an emergency measure is the source of the smell that has been bothering the locals. 

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This sewage is awaiting processing but Thames Water has failed repeatedly to put in place reliable, suitable and sufficient odour mitigation measures, the council said.

Councillor Morgan Rise, Surrey Heath portfolio holder for net zero, wellbeing and environment, said: “It should never have happened in the first place, and has gone on far too long, blighting so many people’s summer.

“We understand and empathise with the concerns of the large number of residents that live near to Camberley Sewage Treatment Works, who are being subjected to the foul odour from the site.

“We are also clear that the resolution of this problem and handling of the complaints is entirely Thames Water’s responsibility.”

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On July 18, the borough wrote to the company telling them it must take “urgent action to mitigate the foul smells emanating from the tank”.  However, the promised 24-hour odour suppression equipment was not put in place until August 1, “despite the urgency of the situation”, said Cllr Rise.

Prior to that Thames Water had been running odour suppression for eight hours a day. The Environment Agency and Surrey County Council have also been contacted to ensure Thames Water operates within its permits and the law.

Cllr Rise added: “The company committed to process the sludge as quickly as possible and return the site to normal operation, which they said would take around four weeks.

“Another site visit by councillors and officers was carried out on August 2, to check if all practical action was being taken by Thames Water to resolve the problem in the shortest time possible.”

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According to the council, Thames Water has committed to ensuring the odour suppression system runs round the clock and to resolve the issue at the sewage works as soon as possible. 

Cllr Rise said: “We hold central Government also to be at fault, for not putting in a strong enough regulatory framework to make Thames Water better prioritise investment in, and protection of, communities over shareholder returns.”

Thames Water has told the council it would complete the sewage processing by the end of August. Cllr Rise said: “We understand the negative impact the foul odour is having on the lives of those living nearby and we will continue to press for the best outcome for our residents.

“We hope to see further progress from Thames Water following our site visits and that of partner organisations as soon as possible, so people’s lives can get back to normal. Once the immediate odour problem is resolved, we hope that Thames Water will consider further mitigation and invest in the sewage works to prevent repeat occurrences of these foul odours.”

A Thames Water spokesperson said they were very sorry to those who continued to experience odours from its Camberley sewage treatment works. They said: “We are working hard to fix the issue, processing and removing the extra sludge as quickly as we can.

“This will enable us to clean the sewage storage tanks over the next few weeks and will ensure odour levels return to normal. We can confirm a 24-hour odour suppression system has been in place since the August 1, helping to minimise the smell.”

Those affected can make their concerns known to Thames Water via its website or 0800 316 9800 using reference number 00409576.

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