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  • by Karma Loveday

MP calls on minister to veto Thames Water recycling plan

Liberal Democrat MP, Munira Wilson, has called on Defra ministers to veto Thames Water’s water recycling proposals for Teddington, which is in her constituency.

In a debate in the House last week, she said: “On behalf of the residents of Teddington, Twickenham, St Margarets and beyond, I ask ministers to veto the Teddington water recycling proposals now, before yet more money is wasted on a project that is bad for the environment and bad for water bill payers, as well as barely scratching the surface of the problem it seeks to resolve.”

She accepted there is pressure on water supplies, but argued: “Because of the limited capacity and the potentially disastrous impact on water quality and the environment, our community believes that Thames Water has taken a damaging wrong turn in promoting a water recycling scheme at Teddington.”

Wilson raised a number of challenges to the plan, including on the following grounds:

  • “millions upon millions of litres of treated sewage being dumped every day” into the Thames, to replace water abstracted and transferred to the Lea Valley reservoir for supply during periods of drought;

  • disruption to communities and green spaces, including the local Ham Lands nature reserve, to enable a new pipeline to be built: “It is worth the minister noting that none of the construction details was shared during Thames Water’s information event earlier this year. It is not just Thames Water’s sewage discharges that stink; its public engagement with our community does tool”;

  • “the scheme would cost hundreds of millions of pounds of customers’ money but gain very little in terms of resilience”;

  • there are preferable alternatives, including the, now pushed-back, Severn to Thames Transfer and cutting leakage: “The proposed scheme would save only one 10th—yes, only one 10th—of the 630 million litres of water that Thames Water loses every day through leaks”; and

  • “Thames Water has made claims about the environmental impact of the scheme that it simply cannot back up, because it has not completed a full environmental assessment to say how the scheme will affect our river ecology, and nor has it completed human health impact assessments of how it might affect thousands of river users.”

She added: “When justifying this controversial scheme, Thames Water returned to a particular claim again and again: that Teddington is the best value option. Best value for whom? That is the question asked by many of my constituents, who remain unconvinced that answer is, as it should be, best value for our rivers, best value for the environment or best value for Thames Water’s 15m customers.”

Company Water Resource Management Plans, including Thames,’ are now with ministers for approval.

Water minister Rebecca Pow ignored the veto call. Responding, she cited the pressing need for new water supplies; opposition to other forms of water resource infrastructure such as the Abingdon reservoir; that a full range of options was consideration by Thames and Water Resources South East; and that the Environment Agency would control the quality of treated effluent discharges through permits.

She said the secretary of state could accept the plans, change the plans or trigger an inquiry and that she would go through due process and decide “later this year”.


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