VILLAGERS are concerned wildlife was seriously put at risk after a river was “emptied for 30 hours” when one of the sluice gates at an empty Cam factory was opened recently.

The massive water spill occurred earlier this month at the empty Sundeala site in Cam.

Residents say on June 9 one of the sluice gates at the former pin board factory was opened which caused water along with debris to spill down the River Cam.

They say over the next 30 hours the river started to empty, putting wildlife seriously at risk.

Jo Kendall, of Cam Community Action Group (CCAG), said if they had not intervened quickly and been persistent this could well have resulted in an environmental disaster.

She said she was out walking her dog near the old railway bridge near Draycott Business Park and noticed the volume of water coming through was “phenomenal”.

She said it affected the water levels at the Rackleaze nature reserve and said that part of the river is  very sensitive and designated as a dark corridor for wildlife.

The group wants to make sure it never happens again as the river was reduced “down to a trickle”.

“If the Environment Agency (EA) had acted swiftly, it was relatively easy to resolve, but of course they didn’t,” she said.

“Somehow on the Sunday (June 9), one of the sluice gates at the empty Sundeala site in Cam was opened.

“This caused a massive amount of water to spill down the river, along with a lot of debris.

“But, as it turned out, this wasn’t the worst of the impact. Over the next 30 hours the river started to ‘empty’, putting wildlife at serious risk.

“Despite several calls and many photos of the issue sent to the EA, they did nothing.

“We took matters into our own hands and contacted the administrators of the site Grant Thornton together with the site security company.

“The administrators said someone would go to the site that afternoon to check it out and sort the issue.

“At 6.40pm the sluice gate was still open, the river still emptying, so once again the EA was notified and excuses made and platitudes given.

“I am pleased to advise that the sluice gate at Sundeala was eventually closed on the morning of June 11 and the river is returning to normal levels.

“We don’t know how much damage has been done.”

The Sundeala factory closed in April 2023 and has been on the market with Savills since last summer.

When the workforce were made redundant, CCAG say they were contacted by ex-employees expressing their concerns about the sluice gates without 24/7 monitoring and potential impact on the river downstream.

“We raised our concerns with Cam Parish Council and they contacted the administrators, Grant Thornton and Savills estate agents to get some understanding of what the plans for the site would be,” Ms Kendall said.

“There is supposed to be an alarm on the sluice gates so if they are opened it goes off and alerts the security/monitoring agents – obviously something went wrong.

“All the recent publicity about water quality and our rivers – it’s all hot air.

“I’m just relieved the immediate issue is resolved, the impact on our environment could have been so much worse.

“We will be following up on an investigation by Grant Thornton and the EA into exactly what happened and how it can be avoided in future.

“Particularly as the site is undoubtedly going to change hands later this year and it is imperative the new owners are fully aware of their responsibilities.

“Gloucestershire County Council as the lead flood management team has also been alerted to the incident and will be liaising with the EA.”

A spokesperson for Grant Thornton said they appreciate the help from Cam Community Action Group.

“Once the administrators were made aware of the matter, they took action to resolve it as swiftly as was practicable and alongside the on-site property agents, are continuing to monitor the site,” they said.

“We appreciated the communications and assistance from Cam Community Action Group in resolving this.”

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said they take all reports of environmental incidents seriously.

“Our officers have inspected the river to confirm that the level is normal for this time of year and that there are no wider environmental impacts,” they said.

“This sluice gate is not the responsibility of the Environment Agency but we have been in contact with those responsible for the site to make sure that there is no repeat of this incident.

“If local residents have any environmental concerns, we request that they contact our 24/7 hotline on 0800 807060.”