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Southern Water admit sewage 'imported' to Ashford works

By Aidan Barlow

Residents have accused a water company of being in denial about importing thousands of tonnes of sewage waste to a “supersized” treatment works.

It follows complaints of unbearable smells coming from the Ashford sewage treatment works in Kinney’s Lane this summer.

The stench has been reported in areas such as Bybrook, Little Burton Farm, Willesborough and Kennington, prompting questions by residents to the site operator Southern Water.

The sewage treatment works in Ashford. Picture from Google

Last month residents met officials about the smells but said they were told by the company that waste was not being brought in from outside of Kent.

But campaigner Marcus Donkersley, who lives in Bybrook, submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Environment Agency, which revealed that 12,500 tonnes of sludge was being brought in to the site from as far afield as West Sussex.

He said: “They have expanded the site but residents have already got problems as it is.

"Basically, Southern Water don’t have enough treatment plants elsewhere, so they are letting Ashford’s become a supersize one.

Residents have complained about the smell. Stock image.

“There’s stuff coming in from as far away as Hampshire. It’s ridiculous. They have said that the levels of sewage being brought to the site are not increasing and denied that it was being brought in from outside of Kent.

“They’ve tried to claim it is due to muck spreading, when the nearest fields from the prevailing winds are miles away.

“They are in denial about this. I’ve lived here for 30 years and I’ve never smelled anything like this before. There is the smell of the urine which is particularly bad.

“I go to visit my parents living on the Little Burton Farm estate, and you can’t sit outside in the garden because it’s that bad.”

Mr Donkersley’s Freedom of Information request revealed that 12,500 tonnes of waste had been brought in in the first quarter of this year, which he estimates is around 100 lorries each day.

In a statement, Southern Water admitted that it imports waste to the Ashford, but says the amount is "controlled".

Southern Water uses odour control systems. Picture by Nigel Bowles.

The company said: “We bring a controlled amount of sludge from outside the Kent area to the Ashford site, as this is our largest sludge treatment centre Kent.

“The process is carefully managed to ensure the site can cope with these imports. We would like to assure residents we are working very hard to minimise the impact of odours caused by our wastewater treatment works.

“Odour levels are strictly regulated by the Environment Agency and we have been working closely with them.

"Following concerns from local residents we have carried out an extensive investigation, which has found there are no issues with our operations at the Ashford site.”

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