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Thames Water to discuss Binnie’s tideway fears

Thames Water head of London Tideway Tunnels Phil Stride is to meet independent consultant Chris Binnie to discuss his recent outspoken criticism of the scheme’s development.

Stride “frustrated”

Stride told NCE this week that he was “frustrated” by Binnie’s decision to cast doubt in the media on the mega-scheme’s design and had sought a face to face meeting.

The mega-sewer is to be a stormwater storage tunnel under the Thames between Acton in west London and Beckton in the east. Stormwater will be treated at Beckton Sewage Treatment Works before it is released back into the river.

“Why didn’t [Binnie] come to us and ask ‘what have you been doing over the last five years’?”

Thames Water head of London Tideway Tunnels Phil Stride

Binnie told the BBC last week that Thames Water should reconsider whether the proposed tunnel is the best way to prevent pollution of the Thames from combined sewer overflows (CSO). He said the company should consider whether the project could also be made cheaper by omitting the section east of Battersea.

Binnie championed the Thames Tunnel in 2005 as Thames Tideway Strategy Steering Group chairman. But he told NCE that changes since then, including less water entering the sewers, sewage works improvements and the construction of the Lee Tunnel meant the Thames Tunnel could be shortened.


Sewer outfall: These are to be superseded by the Thames Tunnel

Stride said this was inaccurate. He said Binnie had not been involved in the project over the last five years and had not appreciated research done since 2005.

“Why didn’t he come to us and ask ‘what have you been doing over the last five years’?” Stride asked. He insisted that a shorter tunnel from Acton to Battersea in south west London had already been considered and dismissed because it would leave 17 CSOs unintercepted and would not meet dissolved oxygen targets, in breach of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.

Septic sewage risk

Cutting the tunnel off at Battersea would, he added, also mean that sewage entering it during a storm would have to be pumped out through existing sewers, whose relatively low capacity would mean the process could take days.

This could lead to the sewage stuck in the tunnel becoming septic, creating odour problems, Stride said. If there was another storm before the tunnel was empty, sewer also flooding could occur he said.

The longer Thames Tunnel would connect through to Beckton Sewage Works in east London and avoid these problems, Stride said.

Readers' comments (3)

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  • Chris Binnie is dead right, in fact the Ofwat sponsored review back in 2005/6 suggested as much, but I suspect the tunnel project is too far down the track now for anyone to be prepared to change direction.
    If you look beyond the emotive image of (dilute) sewage discharges into the Thames and look at the actual impacts, and the costs of alleviating those impacts (compared to the progressive treatment upgrades that have achieved bigger improvements at lower cost) , the tunnel is an incredibly expensive way to achieve a relatively incremental improvement in water quality in the Thames. And David Walliams will likely still be a strong risk of getting sick if he swims in the river anyway, given all the other vectors for infection.
    There are other more cost effective ways to meet the DO targets than building the tunnel if that is the only constraint left in the upstream reaches.

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  • At a cost of £200M per each of the 18 overflows now to be connected - a complete sewage works could be built at each overflow.
    On another question - as a professional should one best serve the needs of the client who wants some nice shiny new toys to add to her asset vale base? Or society who want an affordable and cost-effective service that can deliver as much value as possible, but is not a 'rolls-royce' solution? The tightrope between professional integrity regarding client and society has never seemed to be so narrow or precipitous before.

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