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Nine Elms drains plan unblocked amid US secrecy

The US Embassy

Thames Water has said its ambitious £16M sustainable urban drainage system (SUDs) project at Nine Elms is “testing the company’s alliances to the limit” after clashing with the US Embassy.

Thames Water’s contractor Eight₂O, which comprises Costain, Atkins and Black & Veatch, was refused sight of building plans for the US Embassy’s Nine Elms headquarters in south London, which sits close to a new drain network currently being built.

This has hampered efforts to find suitable excavation sites.

“We’ve asked them if they can share their plans for the building with us, to help us locate where we can and can’t dig down,” said Eight₂O project manager Paul Clough. “They’ve said that’s classified.

“So we’ve had to say ‘how would it be if we dug down here?’ and they came back and said ‘OK’.”

Pressure on existing sewer networks from the Nine Elms development, which includes 21,000 new homes, meant that a new pipe network was needed.

Thames Water was approached in 2012 by the Nine Elms Partnership and is now constructing a drain network to get rid of excess surface water, relieving pressure on existing sewers. Work started last October on the £16M scheme, which will be the largest SUDs scheme in the UK when complete at the end of this year.

It works by channelling surface water from the area between Vauxhall and Battersea Power Station into large underground pipes, and then into the Thames via an underground reservoir and a pumping station.

In addition, green innovations such as ditches with filtering vegetation and streets with rainwater gardens will be used to encourage water evaporation.

“When it’s finished, this will be something that Thames Water and the whole of London can be immensely proud of,” said Clough.

The Nine Elms development will finish in 2025 and includes the Northern Line extension, a new Thames bridge, the redevelopment of Vauxhall and a regenerated Battersea Power Station.

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