Thames Water, which has been regularly criticised for its failure to prevent sewage from polluting the Windrush, is in further controversy about its activities in the London area. The company supplies 15 million customers. Its Mogden Sewage Treatment Works in West London processes the waste of two million people. It is allowed to release a mixture of sewage and rainwater into the Thames on a limited number of occasions when it cannot cope with a large volume of waste. Events of this nature are supposed to be recorded by an “event duration monitor” (EDM).
According to a report in The Times, these EDMs frequently fail. On 16 February this year, for example, there was a spill into the Thames of enough to fill 240 Olympic swimming pools. Yet this was not recorded by EDMs.
The Times consulted Professor Peter Hammond, previously a research fellow at Oxfordshire’s Big Data Institute. He is now a member of Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP) which has been active in our area. He is quoted as saying: “Thames Water’s sewage treatment records have appalling gaps. Mogden had a ten month hiatus in 2014-15 and 42 consecutive days in 2019. The Environment Agency says a permit to discharge wastewater is breached if there are 37 days in a year or 14 consecutive days of missing or suspect data. Without reliable data, we cannot check [whether] sewage is being treated properly.”
In a leading article on 30 October The Times pointed out that in 2017 Thames Water had been fined a record £20 million for its illegal release of 1.9 billion litres of untreated sewage into the Thames. It also says that last year the Environment Agency brought only four successful prosecutions against water companies with fines totalling £1.3 million. In March this year the company announced profits of £513.4 million. The article concludes: “It is hard to escape the conclusion that polluters have concluded that coughing up the occasional derisory fine is cheaper than compliance. They must be persuaded otherwise.”