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Thames Water strikes back at Thames Tunnel critics

Thames Water has criticised an independent commission, which tore into the company’s proposed Thames Tunnel mega-sewer this week, for failing to provide a “viable, economic or timely alternative” to the tunnel.

The commission’s report, released on Monday, said Thames Water should reconsider hybrid solutions comprising shorter storage tunnels and sustainable drainage systems (Suds), rather than the company’s proposed sewage storage tunnel running across London from east to west. The report also questioned the environmental criteria Thames Water said it had to meet regarding the 39M.t of sewage that overflows into the River Thames annually from combined sewer overflows (CSOs).

“There is no mention [in the report] of the need to achieve a timely solution, either to resolve an entirely unsatisfactory situation as soon as possible, or comply with an EU directive that has applied to member states since 2000,” said Thames Water head of the Thames Tunnel project Phil Stride. “The Selborne Commission is advocating a very short-sighted approach.” He also criticised the report for not addressing how to tackle sewage discharges in built-up areas downstream of Vauxhall Bridge, “other than building a number of additional sewage treatment works in a highly urbanised area”.

Stride said the shorter tunnel recommended by the commission would leave 19 CSOs unintercepted and would create odour problems in west London. On Suds, he added that meeting the commission’s suggestion of reducing sewer overflows by 54% using Suds would require disconnecting an enormous area of London from the sewer network, which he said would “not be a simple, inexpensive or low impact option”.

Detailed response

Thames Water said it would respond to the commission’s report in more detail as part of its second phase of public consultation on the Thames Tunnel, which is due to begin tomorrow.

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