London Lib Dems make plea for Thames tunnel to prevent sewage dumping

The government should make a definite commitment to build the 'Interceptor tunnel' to prevent regular deluges of raw sewage entering the Thames, a Lib Dem Assembly Member has said.

Mike Tuffrey, environment spokesperson for the Lib Dems in London, has called for the tunnel to be built after uncovering figures showing that more than 30 billion litres of untreated sewage were dumped in the Thames between September 2004 and August 2005, due to the inability of London’s sewers to cope.

On average, this is the equivalent of around 33 Olympic size swimming pools of raw sewage being emptied into the Thames every day.

The volume of sewage being pumped in due to failing sewers has become so serious it has prompted an investigation by the European Union to find out if Britain is breaching environmental rules.

“These figures are an absolute disgrace. Londoners are having to put up with huge amounts of sewage being pumped into the Thames every week. It is bad for the environment, bad for human health and bad for the image of our city,” said Tuffrey.

“It is incredible that despite all the predictions that global warming would cause more violent storms and heavier downpours, London’s sewer system is totally unprepared, unable to cope and pumping millions of tonnes of raw sewage into the Thames.”

One of the worst incidents in August 2004 led to 600,000 tonnes of raw sewage – equivalent in weight to 13 Titanics – being pumped into the Thames after heavy storms overwhelmed the sewer network (see related story).

This one incident alone led to the deaths of thousands of fish due to the depletion of oxygen supplies in the water.

After 12 months studying the issue, Tuffrey has now put forward a three-point plan to start tackling the problem:

  • A government commitment to build the interceptor tunnel to prevent regular deluges of raw sewage into the Thames.

  • Ministerial agreement to implement any recommendations put forward by the European Union following their investigation.

  • Urgent publication of the review by the Environment Agency and Thames Water into the solutions they recommend to tackle sewage discharges.

    “The dumping of raw sewage into the Thames is something that happened in the Victorian era. It certainly should not be happening in the 21st Century in one of the most developed capital cities in the world,” Tuffrey added.

    “There must be no more discussion, delay or dithering. The longer Ministers drag their feet the more this will ultimately cost the taxpayer to build and the more likely that these problems will damage the health of Londoners.”

    By David Hopkins

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