The Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham, Munira Wilson, led a debate yesterday in Parliament on Thames Water’s plans to discharge millions of litres of treated sewage into the river at Teddington.
With the proposals currently awaiting the green light from the Government, the debate was an opportunity for resident’s concerns to be put to the Minister for Environmental Quality and Resilience, Rebecca Pow.
Opening the debate, Munira highlighted the strength of feeling against the scheme, including concerns over the environmental impacts on the river and important habitats for wildlife.
Moormead Park, the Northcote Nature Reserve and Ham Lands are among the green spaces which might be turned from conservation to construction sites if the scheme is approved.
Munira also raised Thames Water’s record on leakage, which is at its highest rate for the past five years.
Since 2019, Richmond Council has fined Thames Water £200,000 for overrunning roadworks and disruption caused by burst pipes in the borough.
“To quote the Environment Agency’s response to the proposal,” Munira said during the debate, “Thames Water have so-far failed to show that the Teddington scheme is ‘feasible or environmentally acceptable’. That is a pretty low baseline.”
Several other MPs spoke in Munira’s debate.
Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, stressed that Thames Water’s plan to build on Ham Lands would be a catastrophe for the environment and community in her constituency.
Ed Davey, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats and MP for Kingston and Surbiton, highlighted the strength of opposition to the proposals, while Ruth Cadbury, Labour MP for Brentford and Isleworth, demonstrated cross-party support in suggesting Thames Water focus on significantly reducing water leakages.
Munira and Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney have written to the Minister once again to request a meeting to discuss the details of Thames Water’s proposal.
In her speech, Munira also invited the Minister to attend Save Ham Lands and River’s event in Ham this Saturday to speak with residents and river users.
After the debate, Munira Wilson, Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham, said:
“After the Minister repeatedly ignored our calls for a meeting to discuss Thames Water’s plan, this debate was finally an opportunity to force the Government to listen to the extent of local people’s concerns.
“The Thames runs through the very heart of our community and has shaped our area for hundreds of years. It is no wonder that residents in Teddington, Twickenham, St Margarets and beyond are passionate about protecting it from a water company whose reputation is in the gutter.
“From lack of investment to leaky pipes, Thames Water are haemorrhaging public trust at the same rate as our water supply. Recent revelations about the construction impacts of the scheme on beautiful local green spaces, such as Moormead Park and Ham Lands, only add fuel to the fire.
“This scheme is not worth the consequences for our river, our precious local environment and our vibrant community of river user groups.”
Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, who also spoke at the debate, said:
“This ‘sewage for water’ scheme is symbolic of everything that is wrong with the water industry. It will pollute our waterways, devastate rare local wildlife, and it’s only needed because Thames Water failed to invest in its network for decades.
“I cannot accept that the best solution to securing London’s water supply is a scheme that will tear up a nature reserve and dump billions of litres of effluent into the river every year.
“Tens of thousands of people oppose this scheme. Not one person I have spoken to supports it. We don’t need endless consultations, the verdict is already clear, now we just need ministers to listen.”
Thames Water is pressing ahead with plans to pump the River Thames with treated wastewater at Teddington, the company says;
We need additional water resources from the early 2030s so that we can be confident we can supply a secure water supply to our customers during severe drought events. Working with WRSE we have undertaken further modelling and testing of the regional plan and have concluded that the direct river abstraction is the best value scheme to increase our drought resilience in London, and it can be ready by 2033.
We’ve listened to concerns raised by the local community about the perceived public health and environmental impact of the scheme. So far, we’ve completed initial assessments, including environmental and water quality monitoring, the results of which show that the scheme presents a low risk to the environment, and the risks can be mitigated.
We’re continuing to carry out more detailed assessments in consultation with the Environment Agency, Natural England, the Drinking Water Inspectorate and other stakeholders. We’ll share this work with the local community when it’s ready and ensure there is sufficient opportunity for consultation and engagement on the outcomes of assessments and as the scheme is developed.