Page last updated at 20:50 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Firm defends dumping raw sewage

Upgrading the sewer system in London could cost up to 2.2bn

Thames Water has said it must continue dumping raw sewage into the River Thames during periods of heavy rain.

The company said it had a five-year plan to tackle the problem.

November was a record month, with 12.75 cubic metres of untreated sewage put into the river, to the dismay of Lib Dem members of the London Assembly.

They described the figure as "truly shocking" but the utility firm said the sewage had either to go into the river or into people's homes and gardens.

'Designed to overflow'

Lib Dem Assembly Leader Mike Tuffrey said: "The dumping of raw sewage into the Thames is something that happened in the Victorian era.

"It certainly should not be happening in the 21st Century in one of the most developed capital cities in the world."

Thames Water said: "London's sewer system was designed to overflow into the River Thames when it becomes overloaded, to prevent sewage backing up into homes and gardens.

"Population growth, the concreting over of green spaces and more torrential downpours from a changing climate mean that these discharges are now required far too often.

"But they are legal and consented because the rainwater and sewage literally has nowhere else to go.

"Long periods of heavy rain made November a particularly bad month.

"We now have funding and planning approval to improve all of London's five major sewage works and to build the Lee Tunnel to keep storm sewage out of the river, all between now and the end of 2014."

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