Over two billion litres of raw sewage were dumped in the River Thames over just two days, a report has revealed.
The findings prompted calls from Labour to move water companies away from private gain and into public ownership, with one London councillor saying most people would be “shocked” at the quantity of raw sewage pumped into the river.
According to the Environmental Audit Committee, Thames Water’s Mogden wastewater treatment works in Isleworth, London, released enough sewage to fill 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools on 3rd and 4th October 2020.
Councillor Salman Shaheen, who represents the ward of Isleworth for Hounslow Council, called on Thames Water to upgrade its infrastructure in order to prevent the discharges.
‘Most people would be shocked to learn the quantity’
He told The London Economic: “Most people would be shocked to learn of the sheer quantity of raw sewage that is being pumped into the Thames every year.
“We were meant to have learned these lessons in Victorian times, but the problem is only getting worse.”
He added: “Ultimately this is the consequence of having water companies run for profit and seeking the cheapest and easiest solution, which is to continue polluting our treasured waterways.
“In the long run we have to bring water companies back into public ownership and run them for public good not private gain.”
What the untreated sewage released into Thames includes
In 2020, 3.5 million litres of untreated sewage was discharged from Mogden into the River Thames – seven times more than in 2016, according to the BBC.
Untreated sewage released in the waterways included human waste, condoms and wet wipes.
Sarah Bentley, Thames Water’s chief executive, said the firm “struggled to treat the sewage”, because of the UK’s wettest day on record.
“We would have needed either another treatment works the same size as Mogden treating another one billion litres or we would have needed 150 more storm tanks,” she said in the report.
Eustice’s warning that improving infrastructure will come at taxpayer cost
In October, the Tories faced public anger after voting down an amendment to the Environment Bill which would have put legal obligations in place for water companies to stop polluting England’s waterways during heavy rainfall.
Following the backlash, environment minister George Eustice said improving existing infrastructure will come at a cost from taxpayers.
“We’ve been very clear that we want to see a reduction in these storm overflows over the next five-year period of the water pricing plan.
“That will need to be funded and will lead to some increases in water bills to fund that,” he said.