This is not just a petition, it’s more powerful than that. You will be sending Thames Water a legally binding request for information which they have to answer. The law says Thames Water should tell the public when its sewers overflow to rivers but it has refused to do this. So the only way for someone to know when they have spilled is to ask. We will change the dates on the Information Request every fortnight so you can send it again and again. Total requests so far = 619
Thames Water, tell me when your sewers overflowRead the petition
The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 state Thames Water has a duty to publish “Any information in electronic form on the state of water and discharges into the environment, affecting or likely to affect water. This covers information on human health as it may be affected by the state of water as a result of discharges into it.
The information should be available “ by electronic means which are easily accessible” and “organise the information with a view to the active and systematic dissemination to the public of the information.”
We want information about sewer overflows into rivers online in real-time. We asked Thames Water and they told us 97% of their sewer outfalls now have Event Duration Monitors on them. Currently Thames Water only tells people if they ask, and it takes up to 3 weeks. We need to know when sewer spills are happening so people’s health isn’t put at risk and we know their true impact on the environment. Thames Water refused.
We complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office about Thames Water and started the legal process. We will take our case all the way to Judicial Review if we have to.
By sending the information request you will show Thames Water that you want them to tell the public if a sewer has spilled. There are lots of public parks across London where people paddle in rivers that are downstream of Combined Sewer Overflows. They are never told if they are playing in sewage.
You can use our Information Request every week to ask about different stretches of river. This is for the Thames from Hampton Court Bridge to the Dartford Crossing. Upstream of Putney Bridge we want to see the river “fit to swim“. We will change the dates on the Information Request each week. We aim to demonstrate that it will be much easier for Thames Water to put the information online, in real-time instead of responding to thousands of requests. The intent of the law is clear; it is meant to provide people with information about the state of the environment and human health. Being told about sewer overflows three weeks after you have been in a river is no use.
As Thames Water begins to be overwhelmed (we estimate this will take at least 900 Information Requests) it might refuse to send you the information. It may claim your request is “vexatious”. It may say you have to pay for the time its staff would have to spend finding the information. We think they would be breaking the law if they do this. Because you will have your own legally binding request with Thames Water you will be able to escalate your case by complaining so they have to carry out an internal review. None of this will have a financial cost. This may be more complicated than a simple petition but it is also more powerful. You will be using the law to hold the authorities to account. This principle of access to information is enshrined in the Aarhus Convention, and the UK is a signatory. As such the UK is –
“Recognizing that adequate protection of the environment is essential to
human well-being and the enjoyment of basic human rights, including the right to life itself,
Recognizing also that every person has the right to live in an
environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, and the duty, both individually and in association with others, to protect and improve the
environment for the benefit of present and future generations,
Considering that, to be able to assert this right and observe this duty,
citizens must have access to information, be entitled to participate in
decision-making and have access to justice in environmental matters, and
acknowledging in this regard that citizens may need assistance in order to
exercise their rights,
Recognizing that, in the field of the environment, improved access to
information and public participation in decision-making enhance the quality and the implementation of decisions, contribute to public awareness of environmental issues, give the public the opportunity to express its concerns and enable public authorities to take due account of such concerns”