The pollution of our rivers and streams has been big news across the country in recent months, and sadly this occurs locally. But a group of Greensand Trust volunteers have helped identify (and hopefully solve) a pollution issue in the River Ouzel in Leighton Buzzard through their ‘Outfall Safari’ activities.

An ‘Outfall Safari’ involves a simple walking survey, mapping where outfalls go into a river, and then monitoring these to check for potential problems such as mis-connected plumbing (where ‘foul’ waste ends up going straight into a river instead of going to a sewage works for treatment). Outfall Safari training for volunteers has been provided through the Upper and Bedford Ouse Catchment Partnership.

On a very wet Friday morning in October the group met at the footbridge over the River Ouzel near King Street in Leighton Buzzard - many outfalls were hidden by rising water levels, but it didn’t take long to identify a major issue – an outfall next to the group’s meet point was spewing brown water, wet wipes and far worse!

The incident was phoned through to the Environment Agency’s Pollution Hotline, and the Trust has been liaising with them since then. The Agency have been working with Anglian Water to investigate and has identified the cause – a property in a nearby residential street was misconnected, with foul water that should have been going for treatment going straight into the river! The Agency have worked with Anglian Water to resolve the issue and works took place to connect the property properly to the treatment system. The group will still be keeping a beady eye (and nose) on the now infamous ‘Outfall 16’, but fingers crossed the issue is sorted and the river is in better health for it.

EA Environment Officer Tom Robertson said:

Thank you to all the volunteers for alerting us to this issue - it allowed ourselves and Anglian Water to work together to stop the discharge of sewage into the Ouzel. The photographs and videos supplied by the volunteers were very helpful in steering Anglian Water into action. I believe, from our collective efforts in this area of the Ouzel, the overall biological health of the watercourse will now improve.

Greensand Trust Director of Development, who is also Vice-Chair of the Catchment Partnership, said:

This really demonstrates the potential for local people to make a real difference, prompting action where pollution could have carried on happening for years.