Council stands with residents in addressing Thames Water odour problem

Sign with wording: Thames Water Camberley sewage treatment works

Surrey Heath Portfolio Holder for Net Zero, Wellbeing and Environment, Cllr Morgan Rise said:     

"Surrey Heath Borough Council is doing everything it can to act on residents' complaints and press Thames Water to urgently address this odour issue. 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 local 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.   

"In response to complaints about the smell from residents, starting in mid-June, Council Environmental Health Officers engaged with Thames Water to establish the source of the smell, which was identified as a large tank of untreated sewage moved onto site from other locations as an emergency measure. This sewage is being held on site awaiting processing, however Thames Water failed repeatedly to put in place reliable, suitable and sufficient odour mitigation measures.    

"The Council wrote to Thames Water on the 18th of July requiring them to take urgent action to mitigate the foul smells emanating from the tank. As a result, 24-hour odour suppression equipment was promised,  although this was not implemented until the 1st of August, despite the urgency of the situation.  

"The Council has also written to the Environment Agency and Surrey County Council about these concerns, asking them to use their powers to ensure Thames Water is operating within its permits and the law.   

“With the help of the relevant ward councillors, we have also been providing regular updates on the action promised by Thames Water, as their initial communication with residents was initially not very clear, consistent or forthcoming, and promises given have not been met.  

"Officers continue to visit affected residential areas regularly to monitor odour levels, and organised an online meeting with Thames Water on the 24th of July to press for further action. 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 the 2nd of August, to check if all practical action was being taken by Thames Water to resolve the problem in the shortest time possible.  

"Commitments were given by Thames Water to: 

  • Ensure the continuous operation of the odour suppression system, 24/7 
  • Keep residents informed on progress with resolving the odours via updates to their website/other media channels and a leaflet drop to affected areas 
  • Work closely with all agencies to resolve the odour issue at Camberley sewage works as soon as possible  

"The Council will continue to press Thames Water using all our available means to uphold their legal, corporate and moral responsibilities in securing an early resolution to this problem.  

"We are also working to obtain commitments from Thames Water that an event of this nature does not happen again at the Camberley site. 

“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.  

"Residents affected should continue to make their concerns known to Thames Water directly via the Thames Water website (external link) or on their Customer Services telephone number 0800 316 9800 using reference number 00409576."