‘Disgusting’ foam in River Thames thought to be natural and not ‘sewage’

By Staff

Thames Water and the Government have suggested that what is thought to have been a ‘huge build-up of raw sewage’ in the River Thames was actually a natural occurrence. The discovery was made by residents near the Teddington Lock on the border of Kingston and Richmond

Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, said on X that footage, recorded yesterday morning (Wednesday, March 6) showed the waterway ‘full of sewage’. She added: “This is a complete environmental hazard. How much longer are you going to let this disgusting practise continue @thameswater and @stevebarclay?”

The Liberal Democrats added that sewage maps showed the source of the ‘contamination’ could be an outflow upstream on the nearby River Mole, a tributary of the Thames, which has been ‘discharging unchecked for the last 147 hours’.

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However, Thames Water and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have suggested that the material witnessed is thought to have been natural. MyLondon understands that experts would not expect sewage to take the form in the video of the Thames shared by Ms Olney. If it had come from a storm discharge of sewage, it is thought that it would appear ‘shaken’ and foamy.

Thames Water sewage works also filter out ‘large lumps’ before discharging. The private water firm is sending a team to investigate and take samples.

Specialist officers looking into foam

Environment Agency (EA) specialist officers are looking into reports of white foam on the surface of the River Thames at Teddington, and will determine the cause of the discolouration and appropriate next steps. MyLondon also understands that officials believe the build up is natural foam and not sewage pollution.

A spokesperson for Thames Water said: “While the video shared hasn’t been officially verified and there hasn’t been a storm discharge from our nearby sites in Richmond and Teddington, our overflow map indicates Esher sewage treatment works have been impacted by heavy rainfall in recent days.

“We are working hard to make these discharges unnecessary and have published plans to upgrade over 250 of our sewage treatment works and sewers to treat the high volumes of incoming sewage and reduce the need for overflows during wet weather, including plans to upgrade our Esher and Gerrards Cross sites.

“In addition, the Thames Tideway Tunnel, a £4.5 billion investment, is nearing completion. This project, combined with previous upgrades we’ve made to our London sewage works and the building of the Lee Tunnel, will capture 95% of the volume of untreated sewage currently entering the tidal Thames in a typical year.

“We regard any untreated discharges as unacceptable, and we’re committed to stopping them from being necessary. Storm overflows are designed to operate automatically when the sewer network is about to be overwhelmed which then releases diluted wastewater into rivers, rather than letting it back up into people’s homes.”

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