Thames Tunnel Myths & The Affordable, Sustainable Solutions

Feedback on the recent meeting at St Mary's Church Putney

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“A new method of charging us all for water services” is how a spokesperson for Clean Thames Now and Always (CTNA), a London based think tank researching sustainable solutions to London’s rain water problem that causes overflows from Thames Water’s pumping stations and overflows into the Thames described a new policy to reverse pollution of our iconic River Thames.

At a symposium held at St Mary’s Church, Putney, water industry expert, Dr Mark Maimone described how the same problems are being tackled in the USA and now Europe. “Incentivising Green Infrastructure in London can obviate the need for your Thames Tunnel” he has said. In Philadelphia, where they had the same problem, they have twice as much rain as London that is more intense and the first major scheme of its type “Green City Clean Waters” is yielding results exceeding those modelled and predicted. In Philadelphia, Dr Maimone described how charges to property owners were changed by the city to a rate per ft2 of impervious area that sheds rain into their combined sewer system causing the overflow pollution. Incentivising retro fitting of sustainable green infrastructure solutions is a key policy underlining the scheme’s success.

Roland Gilmore of CTNA went on to describe how sustainable solutions were falsely dismissed by Thames Water in their Thames Tunnel Strategic Study of 2005.
“One of our most eminent and internationally recognised experts in sustainable solutions, Emeritus Professor Richard Ashley of Pennine Water Group and Sheffield University, has had his integrity and reputation unfairly smeared.” This follows the discovery that data given to him by Thames Tunnel Delivery Managers, CH2M Hill was exaggerated by about 40%. This enabled Thames Water to dismiss sustainable solutions for the whole of London on the basis of cost and claims of unsuitability that CTNA have shown to be unsafe. This enabled the UK government to adopt and allow promotion of Thames Water’s preferred, single solution, tunnel scheme.

“WE have lost 7 years however; it is now urgent with EU fines of 2Bn Euro (£77 for each UK tax payer) looming that we get on with the job of Blue Greening London and not wait a decade for a tunnel.” say CTNA. Pointing to the LONDON Green Roof Audits that found 10,000,000m2 of roofs suitable for greening within 6km of Trafalgar Square alone, Londoner and international expert Dusty Gedge of GRO described to the St Mary’s audience the potential we have for green conversion of roofs to stop the pollution, tackle air quality, improve London’s ecosystems and bio diversity; something a tunnel can never do.

CTNA promote retro fitting using a GI technique that deals with the other main areas of impermeable surfaces that rain falls on; our roads and pavements:
“We are decades behind the USA and some Europeans in adopting shallow reconstruction of roads using permeable instead of impermeable re-surfacing” CTNA say “This need be no more disruptive than current resurfacing programmes. The added benefits to road safety, in particular for cyclists, lower de-icing and reduced maintenance spending for Local Authorities cannot be ignored.

One of the weaknesses claimed of the tunnel proposal is lack of a “whole of life costing” and modern cost/benefit study. CTNA claim Senior Environment Agency and GLA civil servants have been obstructing and depend on an out of date “willingness to pay” survey to justify ministerial support of the tunnel scheme and have much credibility to lose if the TTT does not go ahead. Together with Putney based charity Thamesbank, CTNA are calling on Boris Johnson, the government and the LA’s to fund a fully re-scoped, independent study to give politicians the “proof” they need to change policy before the Infrastructure of National Importance Audit completes its’ work at the end of 2013. “There is no time to lose to avoid an environmental, economic and heritage disaster being imposed upon us if the TTT does go ahead.” Claim both Thamesbank and CTNA.

Professor Chris Binnie, Ex TTSS Chair is reported as saying that the tunnel no longer complies with EU legislation that requires use of Best Technical Knowledge at Lowest Environmental and Economic Cost to resolve the pollution issue. The Professor described an EU fine mitigation measure that would benefit both tunnel and Green Blue measures costing £30-60M that will save an estimated £160M in fines to the audience.

Ex-Environment Minister and Assembly member Richard Tracey told CTNA after the symposium that they must now take their evidence to the London Councils. CTNA will therefore be seeking to brief Thamesfield Cllr. Jim Madden who represents Wandsworth on The London Councils; a think-tank and lobbying organisation that promotes the interests of London's 33 Councils and residents.

December 21, 2012