Hammersmith & Fulham call on Thames Water to stop dumping sewage in the Thames

Image above: The River Thames near Hammersmith Bridge

Council puts pressure on Thames Water after new data

Hammersmith & Fulham Council is calling on Thames Water to tackle local flooding problems and stop dumping sewage in the river.

New data revealed recently how frequently the water company pumps raw sewage into the Thames, sometimes for days on end. Thames Water has received harsh criticism from water utility regulator Ofwat, which says the water company has failed to spend its budget to reduce the local flooding issues caused when its Victorian sewer network overflows.

The council has reiterated the dangers which sewage in the Thames poses to wildlife and humans, especially those who use the river regularly, and are calling on the water company to take immediate action, as Hammersmith is near a number of storm overflow sites and is one of the most at-risk boroughs in London for flooding.

A new interactive storm discharge map shows dozens of locations where Thames Water is using storm overflow sites to dump sewage across London. Four of these sites are located on Hammersmith’s riverside, with the latest spillage recorded on 16 January outside the Fulham Reach Boat Club.

Other discharges sites include Kew Transfer, the closest overflow site to Chiswick, and Mogden Sewage Treatment plant further upstream.

Up to 125 species of fish and a large number of animals are impacted by sewage in the Thames, say the Council. These include an endangered eel – the European smelt – known to breed near Hammersmith, as well as seals and some seahorses.

Sewage attracts bacteria which decreases the amount of oxygen available for creatures in the water.

Image above: Flooding on Leamore Street in Hammersmith in 2021

Hammersmith ‘one of the hardest-hit boroughs in London’ for flooding

During a period of very heavy rainfall in July 2021, H&F was one of the hardest-hit boroughs in London affected by flooding.

It happened because Thames Water’s local sewer network was overwhelmed, with the mixture of sewage and rainwater surging back into local homes and businesses through toilets, baths and sinks. More than 1,500 properties were flooded.

Environmental groups say Thames Water has become too reliant on being able to dump sewage in the river. It has become a regular necessity than an exception to the rule, as outdated treatment works are unable to cope even with average amounts of sewage.

And while the new 25km ‘super sewer’ tunnel will help provide more capacity to the sewer network once it opens in 2025, river dumps will remain the norm during intense rainfalls.

The key to preventing rainwater from overloading Thames Water’s Victorian sewer system, the council says, is to create more sustainable drainage schemes. This infrastructure helps lower the risk of flooding by diverting the rainwater to the ground instead of roadside gullies that push it directly into the sewer network.

Image above: Cllr Sharon Holder

“Take action now”

In December, water regulator Ofwat told The Guardian:

“We expect companies to deliver the service improvements they were funded to deliver.

“The lack of investment … is extremely disappointing, especially in light of the poor performance for customers and the environment. Failure to invest or delays to investments mean that vital improvements are not being made or are late.”

Cllr Sharon Holder, H&F Member for the Public Realm said:

“Thames Water has to take action now to avoid sewage routinely being dumped in the river and threatening local people’s homes.

“This means investing in drainage schemes, green roofs and rainwater harvesting. In heavy rainfall, it is not acceptable for Thames to use sewage overflows as the norm, damaging where our residents live.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Sewage discharged into the Thames five times within a week

See also: Hammersmith councillor calls for machete ban after having watch stolen

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