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OPINION - ‘Thames Water are ignoring their own terrible record over sewage in London’

Thames Water are under fire
Thames Water are under fire

“Nature’s waiting”! That is the reassuring message when you click on Thames Water’s X (Twitter) feed.

You are treated to beautiful footage of the Beckton Nature Reserve complete with birds feeding and ladybirds checking into their eco-friendly bug hotel.

Everything in fact is so wonderful in Thames Water’s world that I had to scroll back weeks to find a suggestion that all might not be perfect; to an apology for some “unpleasant odours” emanating from the Camberley Sewage Treatment works back on August 1.

Strange then that after that, no mention was made of the 28-hour long discharge of sewage into the River Brent at Trumpers Way in Ealing, or a week-long discharge into the Wealdstone Brook affecting residents of Brent and Harrow. Levels of ammonia and dissolved oxygen in the Brook were both flashing red.

But from Becmead Avenue in Harrow all the way to the North Circular, Thames Water’s customers have been living next to an open sewer with the stench and the misery that entails.

Visit the Thames Water website and you can click on a link that says “Why does sewer flooding happen”. You may be surprised to learn that Thames Water believes the major problem is YOU! Because you keep putting wet wipes and fat down the drain.

The truth is that Thames Water allows it to happen to save money.

Back in 1936 it still made some sense to have a connection that allowed storm water in the surface sewer to escape into the foul sewer, as the occasional flushing of fresh water during a storm stopped the build-up of sludge from blocking the foul sewer.

Barry Gardiner (PA Media)
Barry Gardiner (PA Media)

But that year the old sewage treatment works that used to exist on the Kenton Recreation Ground in Harrow was done away with and the flow from that catchment was put into the main system down to Mogdon Sewage Works.

The interconnection between the foul and surface sewers was said to be “a temporary solution”.

For the past 86 years Thames Water and its predecessors have failed to find a permanent fix.

Thames Water say they don’t want to close off the connections because all that surface water has to go somewhere and they worry that the rivers could not cope. In fact during the recent event the depth of water in the Wealdstone Brook was less than one metre whilst its level before overtopping is two.

There are other solutions. Tank storage to attenuate the flow can be built further up the catchment or even better: create a flood plain meadow where all that clean water can create an amazing habitat for biodiversity. As Thames Water has told us - “Nature’s Waiting”. Well… So are we!

Barry Gardiner is the Labour MP for Brent North