Sewage overflow devastates wildlife in Three Brooks Lake

Photo of dead and dying fish on the surface of a lake.
Scores of dead and dying fish in the Three Brooks Lake following a pollution incident on 27th August 2021. [Photo credit: Simon Hunter / @simonhunter_1]

A blockage in a sewer pipe is thought to have led to a pollution incident that has had devastating consequences for aquatic wildlife in Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Lake [map].

The first signs that something was amiss came on the morning of Friday 27th August when members of the Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group had a scheduled meeting with officers from South Gloucestershire Council at the lake to discuss potential improvements. Having noticed signs of fish struggling to breathe and dying, the Environment Agency (EA) was immediately alerted via its pollution incident hotline.

Officers from the EA and Wessex Water visited the site that afternoon and notices were erected around the lake warning people of the incident and advising them not to allow dogs in the water.

Photo of a notice titled 'Suspected pollution incident'.
Notice warning of a suspected pollution incident.

In response to an enquiry from the Journal, an EA spokesperson said:

“The Environment Agency received a call at 11.17am on Friday 27th August about suspected pollution in Three Brooks Lake, Bradley Stoke. Environment Officers attended the scene to assess the extent of the pollution and gather evidence. Environment Officers also contacted Wessex Water to help trace the source of pollution.”

“By mid-afternoon on Friday, Wessex Water had installed aerators that were used throughout the weekend to try and increase the oxygen availability for the fish present. Environment officers have continued to attend the site to monitor the lake.”

“The Environment Agency are working with partners to identify the cause of the pollution and will continue to monitor the situation and take action where required.”

Photo of a water aerator operating in a lake.
A water aerator in use at the lake following the pollution incident.

The Journal also contacted Wessex Water, whose spokesperson said:

“Unfortunately on Friday 27th August a sewer pipe which runs through Three Brooks local nature reserve had burst due to a blockage caused mostly by cooking fat, oil and grease.”

“While we are yet to determine the source of this fat build-up, we would like to remind customers in the area to dispose of kitchen waste safely in the bin or a food waste recycling bag. And for business customers to ensure any commercial kitchens or food production areas have correctly sized fat traps to store fat ready for collection and safe disposal.”

“We are working closely with the Environment Agency to resolve this incident.”

The spokesperson made it clear that the sewage had not escaped from the Frome Valley Relief Sewer, an underground pipeline that was tunnelled under the M4 motorway from a site very close to the lake just three years ago.

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Local sources suspect that the pollution originated from Hortham Brook, which flows under the motorway and merges with Patchway Brook a few hundred metres north of the lake.

This article originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on page 16). The magazine is delivered FREE, nine times a year, to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

Reactions on social media

Pollution “cleared”

UPDATE added 17th September 2021.

Statement posted on the Facebook page of the Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group on 8th September 2021:

“My understanding is that Wessex Water are now satisfied that the sewage pollution has cleared and that the oxygen levels in the water are now back up to an acceptable level.”

“If you have a dog that loves to paddle it is up to you when you let them back in but please be aware that the brook that was polluted was Hortham brook (under the motorway / alongside the tump / to the lake)…”

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