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Toilet paper covers street as raw sewage flows into rare chalk stream

Thousands of litres of sewage have poured into a rare chalk river from an overflowing manhole in Norfolk, according to campaigners.

Footage posted online on Sunday showed toilet paper strewn across a road in Grimston, rural Norfolk, as discharge spilled from a manhole and into the bordering River Gaywood.

Campaigners have expressed concerns about the impact of the discharge on the chalk stream, also raising fears that the health of residents could be affected.

A spokesperson for Gaywood River Revival told i: “The discharge is absolutely disgusting.

“The latest discharge, which has now been going for more than seven days without any intervention, has seen thousands of litres of untreated sewage and foul water entering this rare chalk stream and left a sea of mashed up toilet paper and faeces flowing freely into the Gaywood.

“Horrible bacteria such as E.coli is literally covering the road and is preventing locals from being able to walk on the road.”

Anglian Water, the company in charge of water supply and sewage treatment for this stretch of river, has been contacted for comment.

The Gaywood River is one of only 200 chalk streams in the world, 85 per cent of which are found in England.

Fed by chalk aquifers and their cold, steady flow of calcium-rich water, these rare habitats are hotspots for invertebrate and fish life.

The Gaywood runs for approximately 13 km through the rural Norfolk countryside, before entering King’s Lynn and discharging into the River Great Ouse.

Residents claim they have reported 30 incidents this year to Anglian Water.

Gaywood River Revival added: “Anglian Water has never once admitted that its failing infrastructure contributes to these issues, instead preferring to put the blame on the weather and its own customers in Grimston.

“People are now sick of this and the potential damage the company is doing to the Gaywood river.”

Water companies are granted permits allowing them to discharge sewage into waterways during times of exceptional rainfall to prevent their infrastructure becoming overwhelmed.

According to research from the Liberal Democrats, chalk streams were hit by 14,000 hours of sewage discharges in 2022.

In April, Anglian Water was fined £2.65m for allowing untreated sewage to flow into the North Sea the largest ever fine imposed for environmental offences in the eastern England.

The investigation found that discharges between June and July 2018 were the equivalent of more than three Olympic-sized swimming pools of sewage.

Meanwhile, water companies across the UK have come under increased scrutiny after i revealed that hundreds of permits allowing water companies to dump sewage into Britain’s rivers had not been updated by government officials for decades.

This came after another rare chalk stream in South Downs National Park, was left “effectively dead” as a result of untreated sewage being pumped directly into the body of water.

Southern Water said it was acting to prevent overspill into homes following high groundwater levels and heavy rainfall.

Raw sewage was also recorded to have been spilling into the River Chess in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, for 17 hours on Sunday.

Thames Water, which is responsible for water treatment in the area, has been contacted for comment.

According to the company’s website, storm overflow – which can contain sewage – has been discharged into more than 30 locations in the last 48 hours.

Some of these rivers include the River Thames, the River Colne and the River Bourne in southern England.

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