Concerns about sewage ending up in rivers and streams have surged up the agenda in recent months, helped by high profile campaigning by former pop star Feargal Sharkey.

But for locals in one Norfolk village, it has been a very real issue for almost two decades. And there seems little immediate prospect of a solution.

Locals in Grimston have long complained about an overflowing pipe that frequently spews out sewage when it rains, prompting fears a rare chalk stream is being polluted time and time again.

The pipe is the main sewer that carries waste from homes in the village and nearby Gayton before reaching an Anglian Water pumping station in Watery Lane.

And the issues have also been affecting nearby Pott Row, with drain covers bubbling out with wastewater.


These pollution incidents are regularly reported to the Environment Agency, with the most recent happening earlier this month and leaving debris such as toilet paper and sanitary products across the ground.

Eastern Daily Press: Anglian Water vans at the scene last week in GrimstonAnglian Water vans at the scene last week in Grimston (Image: Gaywood River Revival)

Anglian Water engineers were sent to the scene to clean up and water samples were taken from the stream, which the company says showed no signs of impact from the waste.

But video evidence shows the sewage water flowing directly into the waterway. 

Eastern Daily Press: Clean-up operation underway after the sewage spill in GrimstonClean-up operation underway after the sewage spill in Grimston (Image: Gaywood River Revival)

The water company, which has invested about half a million pounds into improving the situation, says its hands are tied due to a law that has led to housing developments overloading the sewer system with rainwater.

It has blamed the 'automatic right to connect' - legislation that gives the right for developments to connect surface water discharges to traditional sewer systems - as a major cause of the issue and it has joined other companies in backing calls to change this law.

Eastern Daily Press: Part of the stream sewage flows into following heavy rainPart of the stream sewage flows into following heavy rain (Image: Chris Bishop)

It also fears the situation is likely to continue due to the prolonged wet weather leading groundwater levels to be "exceptionally high", causing infiltration into the system even after very little rainfall.

An Anglian Water spokesman said: “We’re working very closely with the Environment Agency to monitor the issue, and our teams are checking the site regularly, although it continues to operate within its permits."

However, critics remain unconvinced and believe Anglian Water needs to find an immediate solution.



Previous statements had suggested it was a smaller number of properties causing the problems but now it appears it is a more widespread issue.

This has led campaigners to wonder why new housing developments are not being met with more vocal opposition from the water company.

Eastern Daily Press: Mark Dye,of Gaywood River RevivalMark Dye,of Gaywood River Revival (Image: Mark Dye)

Mark Dye, spokesman for the Gaywood River Revival, said: "The ongoing sewage-related issues faced by residents of Grimston and Pott Row are a disgrace and Anglian Water simply doesn’t have any answers. Just empty words that actually contradict previous statements. 

"With the frequency of sewage spills, the current system supporting Grimston and Pott Row clearly isn’t able to cope with moderate rainfall or the increasing demands being placed upon it.

"So why do Anglian Water keep saying they have no issues with new developments connecting to it when these are approved and given the go-ahead by the local planning authority?"

Eastern Daily Press: Water bubbling out of the pipe following rain at the start of NovemberWater bubbling out of the pipe following rain at the start of November (Image: Gaywood River Revival)

The firm has identified capacity issues at Grimston Water Recycling Centre as an issue, and that it needs to increase capacity to cope with the planned growth in the area.

According to a report from May 2023, the company says a more sustainable drainage system is required to tackle the problem by 25pc but these works are not being considered until 2050.

In the meantime, housing continues to be built or proposed for the villages, such as at Stave Meadows in Pott Row and on land north of Back Street in Gayton.

Eastern Daily Press: Rob Colwell has been campaigning to protect the Gaywood RiverRob Colwell has been campaigning to protect the Gaywood River (Image: Submitted)

West Norfolk councillor Rob Colwell said: "This site should be considered an absolute priority because of the proximity to the Gaywood River chalk stream.

"There is no reason why these works should not be part of their 2025-30 funding cycle.

"If the water company are concerned about new build development then I hope they are overtly stating as such when consulted in any local and neighbourhood plans."

While a major upgrade to the Grimston plant is decades away, Anglian Water has said it will invest £85,000 towards making improvements in 2025, providing its business plan is approved.

Eastern Daily Press: The River Nar, which rises in Litcham before flowing 15 miles west through Castle Acre and Narborough, joining the Ouse at King's LynnThe River Nar, which rises in Litcham before flowing 15 miles west through Castle Acre and Narborough, joining the Ouse at King's Lynn (Image: Newsquest)


About 85pc of the world's chalk streams can be found in England and many are found in Norfolk.

The waterways are found in lowland areas and are characterised by clear water and an abundance of flora.

Chalk rivers emerge from natural springs and produce very pure water that is rich in minerals, making it the perfect habitat for a huge range of wildlife.

The River Wensum is one of the most well-known but the Gaywood River, which the chalk stream in Grimston feeds into, is another example.

But many chalk streams are in a poor condition following years of pollution and over-abstraction depleting the amount of groundwater that feeds them.