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Government backs Thames Water's sewage tunnel

The proposed Thames Tunnel to reduce the amount of raw sewage being pumped into the River Thames in London has been backed by the Government.

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman said she supports Thames Water’s plan.

Spelman said: “A tunnel continues to offer by far the most cost effective solution to the unacceptable problem of raw sewage being regularly discharged into the Thames.”

Thames Water, the Environment Agency and Ofwat have looked at various options, with their proposed tunnel costing £3.6bn. However, Thames Water plans to make its customers pay for it through increased water charges of around £60-65 a year.

The main city sewage system, designed in the late 1800s, was built to allow for overflows when it rained heavily to avoid raw waste seeping into the street and into people’s homes.

But when the rain was very heavy, raw sewage would be discharged into the River Thames via “combined sewage overflows”.

Now sewage is being pumped into the river around once every week. In the coming years the sewage is likely to start overflowing when there is little rainfall, meaning the UK will be unlikely to be able to adhere to EU waste water-treatment regulations.

Readers' comments (2)

  • South West Water customers are paying twice the national average in water charges to cover the cost of treating their wastewater and dealing with CSOs. It's amazing that Thames Water has been allowed to get away with not dealing with their CSOs for so long.

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  • The investment of South West Water has enabled many beaches to meet UK. 127 of 193 tested beaches have just made the MCS Good Beach Guide. There are also a number of important shellfish areas where improved standards needed to be applied.
    The Thames will never meet this standard, 3.6billion pounds worth of tunnel or not.
    In the meantime Thames Water have not been 'getting away' with anything. The UWWTD does not require the interception of CSOs at any cost. The Government and the EA have determined that they would prefer to enable Thames Water to progress the scheme than to have the need for it tested in the EU court. Personally I believe there is a good case for proving that the benefit does not justify the cost, but that does not detract from the fact that that there will be a net benefit or the fact that many engineers at Thames Water have worked hard to develop a truly impressive solution to the problem.

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