SEWAGE has been flowing untreated for years into the River Avon in the centre of Chippenham, after historic faults made by developers which caused misconnections in pipes serving a major shopping centre.

Wessex Water are currently carrying out work along the town's High Street to fix the mistake, understood to come from buildings which are part of the original Emery Gate development which was built over 30 years ago.

The misconnections mean that some buildings are attached to the surface water line which flows into the river.

Ian Withers, Environment Agency head of land and water for the region, said: "These are very old connections and when the shops were refurbished, the developers wrongly connected the sewage systems.

"This has resulted in a very negligible amount of sewage water flowing into the river.

"We routinely monitor the River Avon and we have no concerns for the health of wildlife along it.

"We won't be taking any legal action against the misconnected businesses as it appears they were not aware of this. Also the amount of sewage going into the river is so small that it's not having a real impact.

"These misconnections only came to light because Wessex Water are actively checking for them all across the region. We welcome the work they are doing to make the environment better.

"We think that builders need to take more responsibility for their mistakes in the future."

Wessex Water also believe the fault lies with the builders who wrongly connected the sewerage in the first place, when Emery Gate was built in 1985.

A spokesman said: "The commercial properties have been misconnected for a very long time.

"Since we became aware of the problem, we’ve worked hard to find a solution. It’s a challenging scheme due to the number of utility services in High Street, the historical pipework below ground and the depth of the sewer. It wasn't something that we did.

"The work being carried out to resolve the problem has been planned in a way to keep disruption to a minimum and so it can be completed as quickly as possible.

"It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to name the businesses that aren’t properly connected to the sewerage network.

"The point of the scheme is to put this right and connect the commercial properties to the foul sewer, preventing any waste water making its way to the River Avon."