Defending rivers. Challenging polluters.

London Waterkeeper’s letter to Thames Water

London Waterkeeper,

The Office Club,

The Bussey Building,

Unit B.31,

133 Copeland Road,

Peckham,

London,

SE15 3SN.

Reg. Charity No. 1165862

5th February 2020.

Dear Thames Water,

In October 2017 London Waterkeeper requested that –

“Under the Environmental Information Regulations (2004) please tell us when your –

  1. i) Combined Sewer Overflows discharge and
  2. ii) when there are storm sewage overflows from your sewage treatment works

to the River Thames from the Cotswolds to London. And that this information is displayed on your website in real-time.

Thames Water is subject to the Environmental Information Regulations (2004). In Part 2, they state that a public authority shall in respect of environmental information that it holds—

(a) progressively make the information available to the public by electronic means which are easily accessible; and

(b) take reasonable steps to organize the information relevant to its functions with a view to the active and systematic dissemination to the public of the information.

I want you to fulfil your obligations under the regulations and develop an EIR Publication Scheme that publishes environmental information on the state of Thames with regards to discharges into it, affecting or likely to affect it.”

This letter, dated the 5/2/20, is our formal complaint re the above as a real-time online notification system is not in place.

We reiterate our requirement that  

  1. when your monitored Combined Sewer Overflows discharge
  2. and when there are storm sewage overflows from your Sewage Treatment Works

this information is published on your website in real-time. We further require that this includes all of your assets for the entire Thames Water operational area, not just London or the River Thames.  

This is a legal requirement under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

These state clearly your duty to disclose information in Part 1. Section 2. (1) on

(a) the state of the elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites including wetlands, coastal and marine areas, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms, and the interaction among these elements;

(b) factors, such as substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste, including radioactive waste, emissions, discharges and other releases into the environment, affecting or likely to affect the elements of the environment referred to in (a);

We are citing Part 2 of the Environmental Information Act 2004 which says –

“Access to environmental information held by public authorities

Dissemination of environmental information

4.—(1) Subject to paragraph (3), a public authority shall in respect of environmental  information that it holds—

(a) progressively make the information available to the public by electronic means which are easily accessible; and

(b) take reasonable steps to organize the information relevant to its functions with a view to the active and systematic dissemination to the public of the information.”

We note that the Regulations say this information should be made available “as soon as possible” we require that this is in real-time, akin to the sewer overflow notifications systems used in Copenhagen and Seattle. The Regulations also say that the information shall be “up to date, accurate and comparable”.

You have 20 working days to give us your response. We reserve the right to escalate our complaint if your response does not meet our expectations.

People have a right to environmental information that allows them to hold the authorities to account. This is crucial for a functioning democracy. As Thames Water increases the number of Combined Sewer Overflows with real-time monitoring to 80% by 2025 (as demanded by the Government) there is the opportunity to create a public information system that will allow people to make informed choices with regards to recreation at rivers. It will protect public health. In addition, we will know how well sewage infrastructure is performing and where greater investment is needed.

By delivering an online, real-time sewer overflow notification system Thames Water will be playing a transparent and progressive role in society. We urge you to act quickly so that we do not have to complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Yours faithfully,

Theo Thomas

London Waterkeeper.

P.S. We have also sent a request for information under the EIRs to determine which of your Combined Sewer Overflows and other assets in London have monitoring at present.

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