Agenda and minutes

Thames Water Review meeting, Environment and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel - Wednesday, 13 December 2023 6.30 pm

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No. Item


Apologies for Absence/Substitute Members

To receive apologies for absence and to note the attendance of any substitute members.


Apologies were received from Cllr McKenzie Boyle and Cllr O’Regan



Declarations of Interest and Party Whip

Members are asked to declare any disclosable pecuniary or affected interests and the nature of that interest, including the existence and nature of the party whip, in respect of any matter to be considered at this meeting.


Any Member with a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in a matter should withdraw from the meeting when the matter is under consideration and should notify the Democratic Services Officer in attendance that they are withdrawing as they have such an interest. If the Disclosable Pecuniary Interest is not entered on the register of Members interests the Monitoring Officer must be notified of the interest within 28 days.


Any Member with an Affected Interest in a matter must disclose the interest to the meeting.  There is no requirement to withdraw from the meeting when the interest is only an affected interest, but the Monitoring Officer should be notified of the interest, if not previously notified of it, within 28 days of the meeting.


Councillor Christoph Eberle declared a personal interest in Thames Water as the company he worked for meant he carried out projects for Thames Water occasionally. There were no indications that members would be participating while under the party whip.


Introduction from the Chair of the Panel

Cllr Eberle, Chair of the Environment and Communities panel will provide a brief introduction and context to the meeting by outlining the main aims of the review


The Chair of the panel introduced the reasons for the review into Thames Water citing the motion raised at Council on 12 July 2023.   Aims of the review were to look at ways to minimise damage for residents and reduce the frequency and impact of sewage discharges.  This was to be done through several stages, identifying interfaces between Bracknell Forest Council and Thames Water.  Identification of local stakeholders to engage with a cross borough forum for coordination with Thames Water. 

The focus of this meeting was to address concerns of residents, to develop and maintain a more sustainable future that would be characterised by the high quality of the rivers in the Borough.  The expectation was to turn the aspirations of residents, to be able to safely enjoy clean rivers and waterways, into a reality.



The Chair invited introductions from the witnesses:

·        Sustainability Director from Thames Water Richard Aylard introduced himself as a freshwater biologist and environmentalist who has worked with Thames Water for twenty-one years and as a starting point, was keen to share why problems were occurring.

·        Nikki Hines, from Thames Water, was responsible for stakeholder management between MP’s and Councillors and was part of Richard Aylard’s team.

·        Area Environment Manager from the Environment Agency, Dave Willis, would provide a verbal update that would set out the role of the environment agency in protecting and improving the water environment in the Bracknell Forest area and would provide an overview of their role in regulating Thames Water.



Witness Session

Each witness will provide a short introduction followed by questions before moving to the next.



1.     Richard Aylard, Sustainability Director and Nikki Hines, Social Housing manager from Thames Water (20minutes)


2.      Dave Willis, Area Environment Manager, Environment Agency, Thames Area (20 Minutes)


3.      Representative from Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue (20 minutes)





Thames Water


The sustainability Director from Thames Water shared a presentation with the panel which covered the following points:

·        Provided a visual map of the Sewage Treatment Works (STW) in Bracknell Forest with sizes of each.

·        Explained the principles of how a STW works using the example of the Kintbury treatment works.  It was described how the flow of sewage through the sewage works happened.  From entry into the inlet works where grit and unwanted debris such as nappies and wet wipes, was screened out.  From here it moved to settlement tanks, sludge was mechanically scraped and sent away.  The remaining liquid moved to filter beds where it was treated resulting in clean effluent.  This was moved to the final settlement tank which was then released into the river or canal. The remaining sludge from the holding tank was moved to a treatment centre, energy was generated from this and the remaining material sent to farmland as a soil conditioner.

·        The issue of rain was discussed.  This increases the flow arriving at a STW and as treatment can only take place at 70 litres per second if this capacity was breached storm tanks needed to be utilised.  When these became full authority was given to discharge this settled but not biologically treated waste into rivers.

·        Reasons for increased flow due to rain could be caused by:

o   Infiltration, cracks in pipes let water in.  It was noted that finding these breaches was difficult due to the extent of pipes in the system and that they could only be identified during wet conditions.

o   Misconnections to the sewer network caused issues and are difficult to identify and rectify.  There were two sewer networks, the foul sewer from houses goes to the STW.  The surface water sewer for run off from roads, roofs and goes straight to rivers as clean water. 

o   Inundation - the holes on manhole covers allow the sewars to breath but also let water enter in heavy rain. 

o   Physical damage to pipes would cause extra water to enter the system.

·        A pie chart illustrated impacts on river water quality and identified the causes of not achieving good ecological status.  The three largest reasons identified were the water industry, agriculture and rural land management and urban and transport.

·        A tool to report a problem was shared and it was highlighted that the sooner a problem was reported the sooner it could be rectified.  

·        The interactive storm discharge map, which identified when untreated sewage was discharged from a STW, was shown and it was explained that this highlighted to customers the unacceptable nature of releasing untreated sewage.

·        Bar graphs illustrated the number and duration of overflows from STW from the last 4 years across the STW’s in the Borough.  This illustrated the extent of the issue at the Bracknell STW and supported the investment being put into improvement works there.  The data also highlighted the impact heavy rain has on overflows.

·        Investment taking place at each of the STW  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.


Questions from the public

Chair of the panel to ask witnesses questions received on behalf of the public


There had not been any questions received directly from the public.


The Chair thanked all witnesses for attending and contributing and answering questions and the meeting was closed.