Health of River 'Severely Compromised'

Rowing Council deeply concerned about state of Thames

Related Links

Major Inquiry Launched After Raw Sewage Gushes Into River

The New Thames Tunnel � Blight or Blessing?

Work starts in preparation for Super Sewer

Hammersmith to be Super Sewer Entry Point


Thames Regional Rowing Council, PO Box 53561
London SE19 9AF

Sign up for a weekly newsletter from, and

The Thames Regional Rowing Council (TRRC) is deeply concerned about the appalling state of the River Thames between Richmond Lock and Putney Bridge following further outpourings of raw sewage from the Mogden treatment plant in Isleworth, run by Thames Water.

It is our understanding that not only is the discharge of raw sewage into the Thames from the Modgen plant a regular occurrence but that, in the words of the Environment Agency: “Discharges from Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) are a regular occurrence and can happen following as little as 2mm of rain.”

The rainfall during July brought the issue to a head when Thames Water emptied out most of, if not the entire store of, concentrated untreated sewage at Mogden into the river, in order to protect the plant from inundation after the heavy rain.

Thames Water has been keen to point out that the dumping of almost a million tonnes of raw sewage into the Thames at Isleworth was ‘not an accident’. Indeed, they have consent from the Environment Agency to discharge into the river at any time because the Tideway is classified as ‘Open Water’ and therefore falls under the same laws as discharging waste into the English Channel , even though it seems senseless that a strip of river which is almost static in the summer can be classified as such.

As is common practice with these discharges, no prior warning was given, and the TRRC and other stakeholders only found out about the discharge several days after the event – a situation that we believe to be totally unacceptable.

The noticeable reduction in numbers of wildfowl and especially cormorants on the Thames Tideway in recent weeks is a good indication that the health of the river has been severely compromised by these events and the TRRC is keen to ensure that the health of our membership is not similarly impacted.

It is estimated that over 5,000 people use the tidal Thames for recreational purposes including: rowing; angling; boating; windsurfing; power boating; water skiing; canoeing; kayaking and sailing. In their 2007 study into the health of Thames Recreational River Users, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) found that there is an elevated health risk to users of the upper tideway of the Thames for up to four days after combined sewer overflow (CSO) events.

Rowers and other river users are therefore advised to take great care during and after any encounter with the Thames Tideway including: washing hands and equipment after outings; not taking drinking water receptacles where then may be splashed with river water; ensuring any open wounds, blisters or cuts are protected from coming into contact with river water and also urge anyone who has ingested river water to seek urgent medical assistance.

Several weeks ago the TRRC was given a presentation on the proposed Thames Water ‘Super Sewer’, however, since this presentation a number of issues have come to light and it has become clear that the TRRC is unable to support a scheme which does not address the problems of pollution caused by the Mogden Plant and that does not separate rainwater from sewage.

The separation of excess ground water from sewage is the preferred solution for sustainable urban drainage systems, and is far more effective than building extra resilience into the sewer network. This approach is in accordance with ‘The London Plan’, as published by the Mayor’s office and backed up by Water UK, in its report ‘Lessons Learned from Summer Floods 2007’.

Ruth Hatton, TRRC Chairman commented “As Chairman I have a duty to the rowing community to ask Thames Water, the Environment Agency and OFWAT to press for an immediate solution to this problem. The executive of the TRRC is extremely concerned about this situation so I will be writing to the Mayor of London and local MPs to raise awareness of this problem and to make sure a solution is reached in a satisfactory timeframe.”


July 22, 2009