Sewage Discharge (River Thames)

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 21 February 2005.

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Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Shadow Spokesperson (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many tonnes of sewage were discharged into the River Thames in the last five years, broken down by water utility; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

It is important to draw a distinction between treated and untreated sewerage discharges. Treated effluent discharges from sewage treatment works and some intermittent discharges from overflows during wet weather are measured in cubic metres. Discharges consented by the Environment Agency are made to the Thames by three water companies: Thames Water (inland and estuary); Anglian Water and Southern Water (estuary only).

Thames Water

Thames Water reports it has discharged an estimated 4,800 million cubic metres of sewage effluent to the Thames in the last five years. Of this, 4,500 million cubic metres receives secondary treatment. Some of this effluent also receives more stringent treatment at Abingdon, Little Marlow and Windsor's sewage treatment works, which discharge to the freshwater section of the Thames. Approximately, 100 million cubic metres will have been treated storm sewage from treatment works, and the remaining 200 million cubic metres as untreated storm sewage (sewage and rainwater run-off). It is estimated that about 30 per cent. of storm sewage is discharged unmeasured.

I provided a breakdown of this information in a written answer to a similar question from Norman Baker, on 15 December 2004, Hansard, column 1111W.

Anglian Water

The consented daily dry weather effluent flows, which receive secondary treatment prior to discharge, from three sewage works operated by Anglian Water are 95,514 cubic metres. As it is generally accepted that average daily flows are 1.25 times the dry weather flow, it is estimated that 218 million cubic metres of treated effluent has been discharged from these works (Canvey Island, Southend and Tilbury) in the last five years.

Southern Water

Southern Water discharges effluent after it has received secondary treatment from two sites (Gravesend and Northfleet). In the last five years (2000–04) the sewage treatment works at Gravesend has discharged approximately 19 million cubic metres of treated effluent. Since April 2001, when flow monitors were installed at the Northfleet sewage works approximately 12.5 million cubic metres of treated effluent has been discharge to the end of 2004.

Storm sewage is discharged to the Thames at three sites at times of unusually heavy rainfall when the capacity of sewerage system is exceeded. The consents for these storm overflows do not require Southern Water to monitor the volume of discharges that occur.

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