Monday, 19 July 2010

Council attack Thames Water (and tell some more lies)

Our Council have been caught in the act of telling residents porkies again about their favourite bete noir - the Thames Tideway Tunnel. This is the tunnel proposed by Thames Water - and supported by just about every other Council along the river of all political persuasion, the Mayor of London and both the old and new Government - which is designed to stop huge amounts of sewage being discharged into our river every year.

Standing against the massed ranks of supporters at all levels of government is our very own Council, who in the past couple of years have used it much in the same way as George Orwell envisioned a sinister regime headed by Big Brother who used the "2 minute hate" to get everyone wound up at anyone else but his regime.

The facts are thus - London emits so much poo into the river we are at risk of EU fines and endangering our own health. The reason we have the problem is that our ancient sewers cannot handle the flow because they were built over 100 years ago and we need new ones. A couple of years ago our Council launched a campaign against the idea warning of "super craters" and "super sewer stink holes" and actually convinced me at the time because it just didn't enter my head that such claims could be anything but true. I called on you to support their campaign.

And then they were caught lying. And caught again - in fact the last time they used a little known but well used supporter Raj Bhattia, the long time chair of a residents association to actually warn residents that they may be made homeless by this monstrous scheme. This was immediately dismissed by the Government and laughed at by the Mayor. The Council then disowned his comments.

Now, in this latest article, our Council pre-empt the announcement of where the bore hole will actually be in our neck of the woods with the following piece of Big Brother-esque prose:

Scores of sensitive sites across the capital - including several in the borough - are expected to be on the list when Thames Water finally comes clean with residents in September.

Officials from the water company have been working on the secret list for months and are now embarking on a public relations charm offensive to get councillors and residents from local authorities along the Thames, to sign-up to the plans.

So now there is a dark "secret list" that those dastardly Thames Water hate figures have been working on, in dark rooms, rubbing their gnarled hands and just waiting to pounce on our green spaces and turn them into stink pits, mwah ha ha no, the reason the list hasn't been published is that it is a consultation - just like the one our Council ran on all those services they've just axed hitting thousands of vulnerable people .. oh no hang on a minute there was no consultation on that. Just a secret list - that was then acted on. But no big piece in tax-payer funded "Town Hall pravda" H&F News decrying this - oh no.
Anyway, the Council now claims the following:
The health benefits of the scheme are also minimal with only 18 cases of illness reported in a 15 months, according to a survey of river users last year.
Minimal!? Let's have a quick look at what the independent report on the Thames, carried out by the Health Protection Agency together with the Corporation of London had to say about the current state of play with sewage in our river in 2007:
The data collected to date remain the largest most accurate representation of microbiological water quality data for the upper Thames tideway, and has shown:

  • evidence that background concentrations of microbiological indicator organisms exceed the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended levels for recreational use at Kew, Barnes and Putney
  • that water quality improves as you move downstream from Kew to Barnes and Putney.
  • using the WHO guidelines, less than 1% of days when samples were taken from the Thames’ tideway were acceptable by the WHO guideline standard. (“no observable adverse effect limit (NOAEL) i.e. of ≤ 40 colony forming units (cfu) /100 ml enterococci for human health.
  • ninety-one percent of sampling occasions resulted in Escherichia coli (E.coli)counts > 1000 cfu/100ml level, and would be viewed as “poor water quality” in terms of EC Bathing Water quality.(E. coli is an indicator of faecal contamination of human and /or animal origin).
  • evidence of an elevated risk to the health of recreational users of the upper tideway for 2 - 4 days after CSO discharge events.
  • evidence of frequent contamination with potential human pathogens including Campylobacter spp, Salmonella spp and Enteroviruses present in samples from at least one of the three sampling locations on 99% of sampling occasions, (Kew 90%, Barnes 90%, Putney 86%) and at all three locations on 65% of sampling occasions
  • evidence to suggest that plugs of discharged waste-water moving with the ebb and flood of the tide remain relatively concentrated for up to 4 days.
  • samples collected up to 5 days after CSO discharge may still reflect raised levels of indicator organisms depending on the location of the last discharged plug of wastewater.
Yuk. (That's a scientific term) Read the whole report here.

I don't actually have a problem with our Council campaigning against anything they want to if it can be shown to be genuinely against our interests. And I don't mind if there is a local argument about what is or isn't in our interests and I end up on the losing side - that's democracy. But our Council, by their use of our money to feed us misinformation and downright fibs on this subject for the last 2 years, has surely now forfeit their right to be taken seriously on this issue. And I think that's the strongest set of things I've ever said about them.

We're not stupid Cllr Greenhalgh - so stop treating us like we are and start telling the truth.


  1. Well said. I cannot see why the Council doesn't support this tunnel, it is in the borough's long term interests. My partner is a rower and has fallen ill after rowing far too many times, as have her team mates.

    The Council look ridiculous wheeling out the lies and hyperbole about this project.

  2. Excellent article - I, like you, naively believed the council the first time round about the sewers. The thing I'm still not sure about is, as the above comment asks, what are the council's motivations for opposing this now, when their arguments have been seen to be (and proven to be) false. Could it be that Tory central office are using the 'loyal' council here as a testing ground to see how the public react to an authority going against perceived wisdom? Would certainly seem to be the case with the proposed building sales...