In his Daily Telegraph article today, Boris argues that it will take a super-sewer to get us out of the mess we are in. Boris is writing about David Walliams’ 140 mile swim from Gloucestshire to London to raise money for charity.
Boris says: “He (Walliams) has only one thing to fear, as he porpoises along. There is one risk more dangerous than the cold, or the currents, or the rats or the pike or the snagging of underwater weeds or the churn of outboard motors or even the siren call of foxy Henley ladies as they lean from their launches in their leopardskin bikinis and invite him inside for a warming cup of tea. The thing he has to worry about is rain.
Yes, rain is the danger, even for a man in a wetsuit and immersed in the Thames. Because as soon as it rains more than 2mm, the sewers of London are no longer able to cope with their burden and pwooosh – the Bazalgette interceptors are discharged into the Thames, with consequences that simply cannot be ignored.
It is not just that poor David Walliams will be at yet graver risk of an upset stomach, or that the rowers of Putney start to find the water full of unmentionable items. Nor is it just the massacre of fish and other aquatic life-forms. We are facing the long-term deterioration in Thames water quality, and unless we act now I am afraid no one in their right mind will be swimming this river in 10 years’ time – certainly not beyond Teddington.
The sewers of London are already so full, and so much rainfall now sluices into them off the concrete and tarmac rather than sinking into the turf, that these Bazalgette interceptors are already exploding into the Thames about 50 times a year, and the discharge rate is increasing the whole time.
When Joseph Bazalgette built his remarkable system, he thought big. His sewers are still robust, and they are impressive feats of architecture and engineering. But they were designed for a city of 2.5 million people; and the population of London is now pushing eight million, and heading for nine.
In one of the crimes for which we are truly all guilty, society is now discharging an awful 50 million tons of raw sewage into the river in London alone, and unless we are bold in our plans, that figure will rise to 70 million tons in 10 years; and no matter how gutsy David Walliams may be, his future swims could well be banned by elf ’n’ safety.”
When Bazalgette designed his interceptors, in response to the Great Stink of 1858, he assumed that they would only kick into action in emergencies – truly torrential downpours of a kind that happen once or twice a year. That is why it is time to recognise that we can no longer rely on Victorian capital, and why Thames Water is right to be consulting on its proposed super-sewer, known as the Thames Tideway Tunnel.”
Read all about Boris’s solution and the benefits it will have for London here.