Published: 14:41, 28 July 2021
| Updated: 16:12, 28 July 2021
The pressure in the sewerage system after recent heavy rainfalls has lifted the lid on a drain cover and distributed waste products around the River Len Local Nature Reserve in Maidstone.
The problem was discovered by Cllr Tony Harwood (Lib Dem), who besides his civic duties is also chairman of the River Len Nature Reserve management committee.
He said: "The manhole cover was dislodged and large quantities of sanitary products, condoms and wetwipes distributed along the riverbank.
"The entire publicly accessible section of the nature reserve smells of raw sewage and chemicals.
"I have filled two sacks with rag from the footway itself, but the level of contamination is such that a specialist clean-up intervention will be required."
It is not the first time the reserve has been subjected to such overspills and contamination.
Cllr Harwood said: "Until the heavily silted sewerage infrastructure is cleansed it is clear that such surcharging will result with each heavy shower."
He said: "The manhole cover is also lodged at an angle where it could collapse without warning, putting the public at risk."
An algal bloom has appeared on the river itself, which Cllr Harwood suspects may also be a result of the sewage discharge.
Cllr Harwood has listed 10 occasions since 2014 when there has been a serious sewage spill at the site - not counting regular smaller spills during heavy rainfall. Each occasion has been reported to the Environment Agency.
He lists the last occasion as occurring on January 9, 2020, when the footpath on both sides of the River Len close to the Turkey Mill boundary was submerged to around a foot in depth with human waste and the river channel stained dark grey and full of wet wipes and sanitary towels.
The sewerage system is the responsibility of Southern Water. The company has been asked for comment.
Meanwhile, staff from Maidstone council's cleansing department have been clearing up the site.