SEWERS in Oxfordshire need to be upgraded to cope with more housing, according to councillors and residents hit by overflowing sewage.
Residents across the county were hit by sewage flooding and were unable to use their toilets or drink clean water following the heavy rain last winter.
They say that sewerage systems are up to 150 years old and capacity needs to be increased if they are to cope with the extra 100,000 homes in Oxfordshire predicted by the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA).
Brize Norton resident Les Marshall, 72, whose house was first flooded with sewage in 2007 and was unable to use his toilet or sink for two weeks this year, said a second main pipe running to the main station in Witney was needed, with 700 homes proposed between his village and Carterton.
He said: “The effect of more properties being built is a major issue and we need to get the infrastructure right... the current system is not fit for purpose.”
Oxford Civic Society chairman Peter Thompson said many city sewers were from the Victorian era, including in North Oxford, Abingdon Road and Botley Road.
Frank Dumbleton with sewage flowing down The Lane in Chilton earlier this year
He added: “It may be that the Victorian locations are in the worst condition and it’s pretty clear there are areas which are critical.”
West Oxfordshire District Council has written to Thames Water and the town’s MP David Cameron asking for the sewerage system to be upgraded across the district.
It said villages including Standlake, Brize Norton, North Leigh, Bampton, Clanfield, Eynsham and Finstock had all been affected.
Environment overview and scrutiny committee chairman James Mills said: “Some of these problems in some villages go back decades and there’s a risk there could be more sewage flooding in the future.”
In Oxford, Northway resident Nick Fell, 40, said: “We know the sewers are cracking up and pipes have burst several times since the end of last year.
“The sewers in Old Headington are from the 1920s and those in Northway are from the 1950s.”
A footpath in The Lane, Chilton, near Didcot, was blocked by two feet of sewage flooding between January and April, with two homes flooded.
Main Road resident Frank Dumbleton, 69, whose garden was briefly flooded, said: “It was disgusting as people had to walk through it with their dogs and pushchairs to get from one end of the village to the other.
“The sewer pipeline that runs under the village is very small and needs upgrading. It’s a six-inch diameter pipe which was built in the 1950s when there were 60 houses but now there’s closer to 400.”
But Thames Water says the weather is the main cause of sewage flooding, with groundwater mixing with waste water, rather than an outdated network.
Thames Water spokesman Stuart White said it was responsible for maintenance of the system, rather than solving groundwater and river flooding in the system.
He added: “This falls to local authorities and the Environment Agency.
“We know many of our customers were having a difficult time dealing with flooding.
“But we were under enormous strain too, with a network that’s only supposed to take wastewater being inundated with floodwater.
“Teams were working around the clock and our resources were stretched, but we did our best in difficult circumstances.”
Thames Water bills have increased from £302 in 2009/10 to £370 in 2014/15.
Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Paul Smith said: “If the recent high ground water levels have entered Thames Waters sewers, it will have been through leaks in their pipes.
“It isn’t the responsibility of the county council or district councils to make their sewers water tight.”
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