Thames Tunnel Update For SW18 Residents

Latest from Justine Greening MP

There has been so much going on with the Thames Tunnel issue locally, I thought it might be helpful if I provided everyone with an update. Many of you will be aware that other local residents are involved in the working group I set up, looking at the sites that have been selected locally at King George’s Park, Putney Bridge Foreshore, and Barn Elms. I have also been meeting with Thames Water and other organisations involved in the project including the Port of London Authority and the Environment Agency. I’ve also met with the Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon MP, to discuss the project, so read on for an update……..

Significant fish kill following sewage discharges

Unfortunately the recent heavy rainfall has caused all three of our local Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) at West Putney, Putney Bridge and Wandsworth to discharge significant amounts of sewage direct into the Thames, as well as Hammersmith pumping station.  According to Thames Water and the Environment Agency, over the first weekend of June more than 450,000 tonnes of storm sewage was discharged just in the west of London and huge numbers of fish have been killed.  Effectively what happens is that the sewage takes all the oxygen out of the water that the fish need to survive.  Last week, the discharge was so bad the oxygen levels were practically zero, so the impact on river life was very bad.  Of course for the public, the public health risks are also significant.

Because the discharges commenced at around low tide, the pollution was initially carried upstream, but then down again when the tide turned, adding to the damage already done.  Unfortunately, the way the tide works on our stretch of the river means it is likely the discharged sewage will take 4-5 days to be carried away. In the meantime the sludge and solids discharged are being washed along the embankment and the tow path, which we all normally enjoy using.

Thames Tunnel Working Group & the Environment Agency

The working group has been working hard and we continue to meet regularly with Thames Water. At our meeting last month we had officers from the Environment Agency who talked us through the criteria for identifying a CSO as unacceptable and how our local sewer overflows at Wandsworth, Putney Bridge, and West Putney compare with the criteria. It’s the Environment Agency, as the regulatory body, who identified the most polluting CSOs along the Thames that Thames Water has to stop polluting into the river, and is hoping to do so by connecting them to the Thames Tunnel.  

I also met with Environment Agency officers in Parliament last week to follow up on some of the working groups’ questions we didn’t get a chance to asked.  For us locally, we have a worse problem because we have a lot of overflows but the river is shallower and narrower, so the volume of sewage is going into a smaller part of river, than if the same amount flowed into the Thames at London Bridge, where the river is very wide and much deeper, so a lot more water.  That is made worse by the fact that we’re some way downstream, so the tidal effect is much weaker than when you get towards the Thames Estuary.  As a result, anything that enters the river doesn’t get swept away as strongly, so it leaves our area heading out to sea very slowly.

Our next working group meets this week and is going to focus on planning issues and I have invited officers and Cllr’s from Wandsworth Council and the Greater London Authority, alongside Thames Water. It will be a good opportunity to find out what restrictions the Council, as the local planning authority, can place on the work sites during the Thames Tunnel construction, for example on working hours, transport movements, noise etc.

Visit to Thames Tunnel offices

I recently arranged for our working group to visit Thames Tunnel offices to talk to some of the engineers working on the project. The engineers gave us a very detailed presentation on sewage modeling, covering lots of issues including sewer catchment modeling, water quality modeling, and air management modeling. We had chance to look at some of the physical models used to test the CSO connections that we’ll have locally as well as the main tunnel. We also got to see how our local sewage overflow points work, which really showed just how full the sewer system is and how it only takes a small rainfall to overflow.

Barn Elms Rally and Fun Day on Saturday, 16th July

I’ve been working with Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond, and our local Councils on Thames Water’s preferred main drive shaft site at Barn Elms. I think it is really important we work together to make a strong case against the use of Barn Elms as a main drive shaft site.

As part of this I am organising a rally and sports day with Zac Goldsmith MP, our local Councils and Stop the Shaft at Barn Elms on Saturday 16th July from 11.30am to show Thames Water how important Barn Elms is to us. So keep the date free and I’ll be posting more details on here soon.

What’s next?

Thames Water is currently reviewing the Thames Tunnel proposal taking the recent consultation responses into consideration. As part of this Thames Water are now seriously looking at a derelict brownfield site as an alternative to Barn Elms and working with residents to come up with the best solutions at King George’s Park and Putney Bridge Foreshore. Thames Water will produce more detailed plans and consult residents again in the autumn.

I think the next couple of months will be really important for us to make our case to Thames Water and I will be working hard with residents to do just that. If you want to keep up to date with the Thames Tunnel issue, or if you want to join the working group, or if you have any questions about the project and how it will affect us locally please do get in touch with me at

You can also read my previous updates on my website by clicking this link

Best wishes

Justine Greening MP


June 19, 2011