Dirty Old River Mole – latest news

May 5, 2022

           April 2020

Welcome to the first Newsletter of our sister group:  they’ll send them out every month or so with news, information, events and actions to keep you involved.

Please forward it to friends who worry about the state of our rivers and encourage them to join their mailing list.

And volunteer to join their actions!       Email them at FORMRiverwatch@yahoo.com


Plymouth University students discover alarming levels of E.Coli in River Mole

60 students and lecturers on a field trip to investigate the state of the River Mole listened to our first presentation, given by Nigel and Sue on Monday 1st May.  After the talk, students showed them results of their river testing so far.  E.Coli  levels were alarming in several areas of the river upstream from the Stepping Stones. Phosphate and nitrate levels were also high.

We await more information from the University. 


Our members join nationwide demo against water pollution

On Saturday 23rd April, 3 of us joined the Surfers Against Sewage demonstration in London demanding a stop to sewage pollution by Thames Water.  This was one of many demos across the UK targeting regional sewage treatment companies.

They met many other activists including Professor Peter Hammond who has given evidence to the House of Commons on sewage pollution.

Dorking Sewage Treatment Works visit:  Thames Water officials fail to explain huge number of spills in 2020

5 local residents joined us to visit Dorking Sewage Works in March and talked to their Operations Manager, Site Manager and Customer Relations contact.

They couldn’t properly explain why they had discharged untreated/part-treated sewage into the River Mole for more than 2000 hours in 2020.  They agreed Thames Water need to be more open about discussing spills and other incidents at the works and promised to meet community representatives regularly, starting in June.

They also talked about investment plans for the site – increasing storm capacity and the quantity of sewage it can treat.  These projects are due to be completed by the end of 2025.

Let’s not hold our breath …

Also, Pixham residents experienced a rank stench from the works on April 25th + a continuing smell for several days. We notified Thames Water and are awaiting their response

Holmwood Sewage Treatment Works visit: still no explanation about spills

On Tuesday 26 April Pat and Nigel accompanied a group of local Councillors on a visit to Holmwood Sewage Works.  Our hosts were the same as at Dorking.

While we learned a lot about the site, yet again they couldn’t tell us why Holmwood discharged untreated sewage into the small local stream for an average of 1537 hours each year from 2019 to 2021. They didn’t know which streams the spills flowed along on their path to the River Mole.

The photo below was taken at Shellwood Cross, around 3 miles from the works. We think this is part of their route to the River Mole. Small stream, lots of spills.

We’ve submitted an Environmental Information Request to Thames Water which we hope will give us the data we need to identify specific issues.

2021 data shows some improvement

Thames Water published their ‘Event Duration Monitoring’ report for 2021 at the end of March.  ‘Events’ are spills of untreated sewage to the environment.

In 2021 Thames Water sites dumped sewage into the rivers and streams of the River Mole Catchment for 9120 hours!   Dorking Sewage Works contributed 612 hours, a substantial improvement over 2020’s 2101 hours but still far too much.  The total for all sewage works was 8058 hours.


River Watch:  for all.

  1. Keep an eye out! Discoloured, smelly or excessive discharge from a pipe, lots of bubbles, dirty foam or oil or, worst of all, dead or distressed fish are all danger signals.
  2. Keep a regular record by taking a short video or photograph of any vulnerable place that you pass regularly. By doing this you’ll notice when things go wrong and your record will provide valuable evidence if needed. (Thanks, Sarah!)

What to do if something’s wrong?

  1. Note time and location
  2. Take photo or short (max 30 seconds) video.
  1. If it’s a major problem involving dead fish etc, call the Environment Agency hotline 0800 80 70 60 and phone us 07867558284.

Water Testing Campaign: hopefully starting June

We’re planning to set up a ‘citizen science’ water testing campaign for our river and its tributary streams.  This involves:

  1. Deciding which tests would be most useful, affordable and suitable for volunteers.
  2. Checking the Environment Agency to be sure they’ll accept our test results as sufficient evidence for follow up action.


  1. Help run a FORM stall at the Jubilee Fun Day, Meadowbank, Dorking on Thursday June 2nd, 10.30 – 4.30pm. It’s a magnificent chance to publicise our cause. We’ll provide everything you need + help from neighbouring stalls (Dorking Climate Emergency + Dorking Solar).We’d like to have 2 hour shifts so no-one has to be there for too long.
Contact us at formriverwatch@yahoo.com
  1. Social event and first river-test:
Test the water at our first-ever picnic in June. Watch this space!



It’s their first newsletter:  please let FORM know how they’re doing via formriverwatch@yahoo.com


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