River water quality at Saltford - Saltford Parish Council

Saltford Parish Council is not responsible for the quality of water at the River Avon in Saltford. For user awareness, there have been several reports of children and young people becoming ill following swimming in the River Avon in Saltford. In 2018, a 12 year old child was placed in isolation for three nights at Bristol Children’s Hospital after swimming in the river at Saltford. Symptoms reported include vomiting, diarrhoea, and severe dehydration.

Storm overflows are safety valves built into the combined sewer system to discharge excess sewage to rivers when rainfall exceeds capacity. Saltford has several storm overflows that flow raw sewage into the River Avon in Saltford.

Records show that in 2020 the storm overflow near Kelston Weir (near the marinas / boat clubs) in Saltford spilled 94 times into the River Avon in Saltford for a total of 150hrs. A second storm overflow on The Shallows near under the cycle path bridge spilled 62 times for a total of 68hrs into the River Avon at Saltford. There are two further storm overflows spilling into the river at Saltford.

To find out about river water quality in Saltford please use this BART interactive map (more information below), or The Rivers Trust ‘Is my river fit to play in’ map. The Rivers Trust advise as follows: Avoid entering the water immediately downstream of these discharges and avoid the overflows (brown circles), especially after it has been raining.

Due to concerns about the impact of water quality on public health, when approached by Saltford Parish Council about storm overflows in 2020, the Environment Agency stated that it does not test water quality at Saltford Weir as it is not a designated bathing area.

When approached for comment in autumn 2020, B&NES Council informed Saltford Parish Council that combined sewer overflows – better known as storm overflows – protect properties from flooding by acting as relief valves for a mix of rainwater and foul sewage water. It also provided SPC with a copy of a document produced by Wessex Water named ‘Our sewer system and storm overflows‘.

Wessex Water shared in December 2021 their ‘Storm Overflows: Why they exist and what impact they have‘ publication. For more information from Wessex Water about storm overflows please contact: Wessex Water Claverton Down, Bath BA27WW; operational.enquiries@wessexwater.co.uk; 0345 600 4 600

In May 2022, Wessex Water shared the link to their ‘Storm Overflows’ webpage which details their Storm Overflows Improvement Plan which will see every overflow in the region monitored by 2023, and by 2025, the number of hours storm overflows discharge reduced by 25%. In a message accompanying the link, Wessex Water stated ‘We understand the concerns about storm overflows and agree they should have no place in a 21st century sewerage system. This major investment is the start of decisive action to tackle storm overflows, and our longer term improvement plan sets out the further progress we will make over the coming years. We have 1,300 overflows across the Wessex Water region, so it will take time and significant resources to eliminate them. By committing to spend £3 million every month on overflows, starting with those that discharge most frequently and those that have any environmental impact, we will make a good start.’

Further to storm overflows, a sewage treatment works (Saltford Water Recycling Centre) is located close to Saltford Weir. A spokesman for the Environment Agency said in 2018 that discharge from the sewage treatment works run downstream away from its location.

The Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART) runs an annual WaterBlitz event each summer where volunteers on behalf of BART aim to collect as many samples from the rivers, streams and lakes of the Bristol Avon catchment. his helps to gain a snapshot of water quality. Saltford Parish Council helps to publicise this initiative. BART supplies free water testing kits to volunteers which will measure nutrient levels in a water sample taken from a chosen waterbody. In high concentrations nutrients can impact the local wildlife which depends on a healthy river. The presence of these nutrients may indicate a pollution event nearby or ongoing issues from land management, sewage outfalls or urban pressures. The results help BART target their ongoing conservation work. To see results from WaterBlitz events please visit BART’s interactive WaterBlitz map.

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