Hammersmith to be Super Sewer Entry Point

Furnivall Gardens could be building site for eight years

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The possibility is looming of one of Hammersmith's parks being chosen as the site for the entry point to a £2 billion sewer construction project.

Thames Water is hoping to dig the entry point for the proposed 18 mile-long Thames Tunnel - dubbed the ‘super sewer’ - in Hammersmith, instead of Chiswick as originally planned. The sewer will stop storm water and raw sewage flooding into the Thames.

In a recent letter to council officials, Thames Water says the tunnel is ‘likely to start in Hammersmith & Fulham.’ Council officials fear the most likely site may be Furnivall Gardens in Hammersmith.

If H&F is chosen as the starting point for the tunnel, Thames Water will need to dig the access shaft as an entry point for the giant tunnel boring machine. This is in addition to six other construction sites that will connect sewer outfalls into the new tunnel.

Councillor Nicholas Botterill, H&F Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, says: “We are shocked at Thames Water’s u-turn as they always led us to believe that the Thames Tunnel would start in Chiswick. It now appears they have changed their minds. This is worrying news and we are pressing Thames Water for urgent answers.”

Thames Water wants to start building the tunnel in 2012. The project will be one of the biggest engineering projects ever attempted in the capital and the earliest expected finish date is 2020.

Council officers are meeting with officials from Thames Water next month to find out why Hammersmith now appears to be the starting point for the mega-tunnel as well as asking Thames Water where they propose to put six construction sites.

Cllr Botterill continues: “A 30 metre wide tunnel entrance near the Thames can only be justified in a massive area of open land well away from built up areas. There is no area like that in Hammersmith & Fulham so the only answer must be to put the entrance further up river, where previously intended, at Dukes Meadow or thereabouts. It cannot possibly go anywhere in H&F as that would mean utterly destroying somewhere like Furnivall Gardens or another one of our beautiful parks.”

The sewer will take foul water from the 57 points along the Thames where 32 million tonnes of raw sewage a year is pumped into the river. It will combine these overflow outlets into a single 7.2 metre diameter tunnel, which will be up to 80 metres below ground in parts.

The estimated £2bn price tag for the tunnel is to be met through a rise in water bills. David Bland, chairman of Consumer Council for Water Thames, told the BBC, "The costs will be met wholly through increases in consumers' bills, and will be far more than most are willing or expecting to pay. For some Thames Water customers, the resulting price rises will be simply unaffordable".

Environment Minister Ian Pearson said when the project was originally announced, "This tunnel is the right solution for London and for the environment. It will give us a 21st Century River Thames that we can all be proud of. This will inevitably mean some extra costs for customers, but it will deliver tangible benefits for London in the long term."

July 16, 2008