We are coalition of national and local organisations calling on MPs and local councils to support the construction of a new tunnel under the Thames which will stop tens of millions of tonnes of sewage overflowing into London’s river each year. The tunnel proposal, which is the result of more than ten years of exhaustive research and development by Thames Water and the Environment Agency, is the only viable solution to dealing with “London’s dirty secret”: when as little as 2mm of rain falls in the capital, the sewers overflow into the river.
Thousands of people use the river for rowing, angling, sailing and canoeing. Many walkers and cyclists use the towpath, and adults and children go on to the foreshore where sewage is deposited. Many thousands more would be encouraged to make use of London’s greatest natural asset if it were not routinely polluted with sewage from London’s population which has grown from 2.5 million in 1865 when the sewers were built to 8 million today.
Sewage overflows in the summer are particularly damaging to wildlife in the river, which supports a wide range of freshwater and marine fish. The Thames has been described as a wildlife superhighway through the capital and is an important nursery area for millions bass and flounder – very important commercial and recreational angling fish species. Every time there is a major overflow of sewage, tens of thousands of these fish die, damaging the fragile eco-system.
It is a large scale problem which requires a large scale solution for the capital for at least the next 120 years. It will cost £4.2 billion, and will be paid for by Thames Water customers; each household will pay £70-80 extra a year. Thames Water bills are currently among the lowest in the country and the new higher rates will still be lower than many other water companies’ in the UK. Construction of the tunnel will create 4,000 direct jobs and many more associated jobs as well as a clean and healthy tidal river which could support many thousands more employment opportunities in recreation, leisure and tourism industries of the future.
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