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Thames Water warns David Walliams against swimming into London

Comedian David Walliams has been advised to cut short his charity swim down the River Thames due to the amount of sewage dumped into it in central London recently.

He is swimming along the river for the Big Splash Challenge for Sport Relief and is due to arrive in the capital in the next few days.

However, Thames Water said about 500,000m3 of raw sewage had entered the river via combined sewer overflows since Monday.

“We’ve been in touch with David Walliams’ team and he’ll have to make his own decisions,” said Thames Water sustainability director Richard Aylard. “We’re not public health experts but I wouldn’t recommend swimming in it.”

Thames Water is currently in public consultation over its proposed £3.6bn Thames Tunnel, part of the London Tideway Improvements scheme that would dramatically cut the 32M.m3 of raw sewage that is discharged into Thames each year.

The Little Britain star has fallen behind schedule in his charity eight-day swim along the Thames. He began in Gloucestershire on 5 September but suffered a high temperature and struggled to keep up his pace. Sport Relief said Walliams still intended to swim the London section.

Readers' comments (4)

  • I am slightly horrified that Thames Water should publicly state that they are "...not public health experts...."

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  • If he can't continue with his swim at least he can go through the motions1.

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  • Unless DW is swimming in the rain or in a few hours after a storm, there will be no overflows.
    I guess TW are happy that this event is promoting their tunnel. Not that the tunnel needs to be anything like the length they are determined to construct.
    The Thames won an international award last year for the quality of the river; so why the cautions?

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  • Richard: Hello! I recall you helping with the Tideway Tunnel Study some years ago (at least I assume you are 'the' Richard Ashley!). One of the issues with the Thames is that the plume of a CSO spill can remain in the river for some time (depending on where the spill occurs) due to tidal action. The classic two steps forward, one step back. Of course even with the incredibly expensive tunnel the Thames will still flow through a huge urban area collecting contaminants from surface water, and sewage discharges from the major treatment plants and spills (that will continue to occur albeit in lower frequency and volume). So $3.6Bn later the Thames will still not meet any standards for a bathing water (nor do I believe it is it practicable to make it so). The tunnels main purpose is to meet the UWWTD (and most likely because the Government did not want the fight with the EC to prove that it is not necessary).

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