River from Tory Philp’s constituency runs brown with sewage

Within a day of Thames Water imposing a hosepipe ban on London and the south-east, the company was caught pumping raw sewage into the River Wandle, and a Croydon MP wrote to the company accusing it of turning a parkland stream into an open sewer.

Polluters: Thames Water has been killing fish in the River Wandle with sewage from Beddington for more than a decade

Sarah Jones, the Labour MP for Croydon Central, expressed her concern over the stinking state of Chaffinch Brook, which runs through South Norwood Country Park and where the river banks are caked in wet wipes.

Jones sent her letter to Sarah Bentley, the £2million per year chief executive of Thames Water, demanding an urgent meeting.

“I have written to Thames Water urging swift and concrete action after reports of sewage spewing into South Norwood Country Park – an important and much loved green space,” Jones said.

“The presence of sewage in Chaffinch Brook, where children often paddle, is completely unacceptable.”

In her letter, Jones described Thames Water’s dirty business as “a serious and unacceptable health risk”.

Untreated sewage was poured into the stream 20 times in 2021, and it has happened at least twice so far this year again this year. The sewage comes from a Thames Water pumping station in the park, usually when there has been heavy rain.

Not far from the pumping station are stepping stones across the stream, which children paddle in and where pet dogs drink.

“A serious and unacceptable health risk”: MP Sarah Jones’s letter to Thames Water

“This is a nature reserve,” said Sue Takwani, from Friends of South Norwood Country Park.

“We shouldn’t have any pollution in our streams. Just because it is a little stream it doesn’t give Thames Water the licence to dump sewage into it. I just don’t think they should be allowed to do it.”

Thames Water has also been caught this week pumping sewage into the River Wandle, which has huge biodiversity significance as a rare chalk stream.

Outraged by outflows: ecology campaigner Feargal Sharkey

One local posted a video of the murky brown water in the Wandle – which has its source in South Croydon, and runs through Wandle Park and on to Carshalton as it heads to the Thames.

“What should be crystal clear is brown and full of human shit,” they said. “What do we pay them for? Where’s the money going?”

The tweet was picked up by Feargal Sharkey, the former Undertones frontman and now a high-profile ecology campaigner. “This is the River Wandle, a chalk stream, one of only two urban chalk streams in the whole of London,” Sharkey wrote. “It is currently listed as achieving only ‘moderate’ ecological status.

“Among the reasons for not achieving ‘good’ status [is] “sewage discharge” by the water industry.”

According to the Wandle Valley Forum, the sewage outfall was reported in the Poulter Park area and originated from Thames Water’s Beddington Farmlands sewage works.

At times of heavy rainfall, water companies have been allowed by the Tory government to discharge sewage in order to maintain tank levels and to ensure they are not exceeded.

The latest data shows that the privately owned water companies have pumped raw sewage into Britain’s rivers and waters for more than 9million hours since 2016.

The figures from 2016 to 2021 represent a 2,553per cent increase on the previous five-year period.

Raw sewage was discharged into British waters more than 400,000 times last year.

Full of shit: Tory MP Chris Philp

Britain’s waterways, its rivers, streams and beaches have now become so badly polluted with untreated sewage that the French government has protested, saying that this disgusting outflow is affecting their own country’s coastline, fishermen and the “health of citizens”.

Last October, when an amendment to the Environment Bill sought to stop the practice of water companies pumping sewage into our rivers, Croydon South’s Tory MP, Chris Philp, was among the government’s lobby fodder who voted it down and block the environment-improving measure.

Philp has often been accused of being full of shit, but on this occasion he was simply helping highly profitable, foreign-owned utility companies to pour untreated shit into our rivers.

The River Wandle’s source is in Philp’s constituency.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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9 Responses to River from Tory Philp’s constituency runs brown with sewage

  1. Dave West says:

    South Norwood Country Park is of course an old sewage farm and what this suggests is that Thames Water have never fully reconfigured the system once it closed and the screens in Ashburton still connect to one of the branches of Chaffinch Brook.

    My first job on leaving school in 1976 was at the Tannery across the tracks (roughly where Topps Tiles is and the reason why it’s called Tannery Close). We produced vast quantities of waste water and it was sited there probably because of the proximity of the sewage farm. When it was built in the 1930s, boroughs still had their own water companies and the Croydon/Bromley border was nearby – neither really wanting a nasty tannery on their patch. Thames Water of course swept all these smaller companies up and solved the problem long before I arrived.

    Once the sewage farm closed, we had to treat our effluent before it went down the drain and my job was to test it every day before it left the huge settling tanks. We were charged based on the quantity and the quality of our waste so a key role. We were self sufficient in water as we had a borehole sunk deep into the ground (another of my jobs was to climb a slippery metal ladder in all weathers in wellies to read the gauge at the top of a very tall water tower – what’s Health & Safety?) – shame they didn’t retain that borehole to help with the current water shortage!

  2. Steve Reed needs to complain too. Last year Thames Water pumped sewage into the Wandle at Canterbury Road in Thornton Heath on no fewer than three occasions.

    You can be sure that they haven’t cleaned up their act since.

  3. Sue Stein says:

    Feargal Sharkey has my backing.

    Steve Reed is an irrelevant politician in many ways.

    Water companies should be made public. Got a view on this Reed -not are you just interested in rigging local elections and grandstanding?

  4. This River Wandle Incident is microcosm of what is gong on in every river in the world. It totally sucks and it is something we over did over a 100 years ago to the Thames too. Needs to stop either way for obvious reasons as it is destructive to the wildlife ecosystem and risk of Cholera

  5. Last summer a group of Tories, including MPs Chris Philp and Crispin Blunt and Assembly Member Neil Garratt, met representatives from Thames Water in Croydon. This was to bollock them over raw sewage coming up from drains along Chipstead Valley Road, flooding gardens and spraying houses and cars with shit.

    However, last Autumn those same Tory MPs voted down plans to stop raw sewage being routinely pumped into our streams and rivers and onto our beaches.

    Today the Tories announced that the water companies have until 2035 to cut the crap – but not eliminate it.

    Tory ministers claim that ending all sewage dumping would mean a hike in customer bills of up to £1000 a year. That’s bollocks.

    Instead of putting the cost of clean rivers and beaches onto us and our tourist and leisure industries, the Tories could put it on the water companies, They could easily take a meagre cut to their profits of nearly £3billion a year.

    The trouble with the Conservatives is they put big business first, and us plebs and our environment second.

  6. A river of shit. That sums up the state of our political and corporate leadership today. I’ve been around longer than many, and I can’t recall a time when our leadership – all parties, businesses, institutions – have ever lost all sense of shame, responsibility and humanity.

  7. Martin Rosen says:

    So the Chief Executive of Thames Water earns £2million a year? Plus bonuses and massive pension? So let’s call that at least £3million? And this in a monopoly company with no sales department, no advertising need, no market risk … just a guaranteed money-making machine!!!

    They even disbanded OFWAT (the only consumer representative in the industry) to make it even easier for the water companies to rips off their customers.

    Thames Water are without doubt the worst company I have EVER had to deal with. Their customer services department is appalling, their web presence is worse, their accounting control systems are useless, their engineering capability is unbelievably bad, their track record on pollution is disgraceful, and their unenviable record is that (I have been told) they have been found to be the worst company in the UK in every single category of measurement devised by the annual government report on water company performance.

    Thames Water has (I think) 5,500 employees. If the CEO cut her total income by half (although many would argue that this is insufficient) then she could share that saving equally among her employees to give each of them a £270 salary increase. And at zero net cost to the company. That would be a modest start, but it would carry huge symbolic significance.

    So how about it, Sarah?

  8. Lewis White says:

    The privatised water companies are no more efficient than their pre-privatisation predecessors were.

    All that has happened is that the money that should have been allocated to improving sewage treatment and building new reservoirs has been put into another stream, the one that flows all year, every year, with a nice volume, even in periods of drought — the one that fills the pockets of the current CEOs and shareholdrers, and the parent companies , some of which are based in China and other countries.

  9. Lewis White says:

    Politics and sewage?. Sooo many links between them. If the Houses of Parliament had not been located on the very bank of the Thames, then filled with human excrement (The Thames, I clearly mean to say) and had it not been for a very hot summer, the MP’s would never have voted for action to build the North and South embankments and the main sewers we are still using. It took “The Great Stink” to overcome their inertia and relauctance to act, when the committee rooms, offices and –dare I say–the Chamber– were filled with the foeted stench of polluted air arisng in a foul miasma from the very river from which much of London’s drinking water was till being drawn by the private water companies. MP’s clapped handkerchefs to their faces as they retched while speaking or sitting in debates.

    The year? 1858. It was hot, just like 2022.

    The whole of the 19th Century was the scene for a long-drawn out battle between champions of public health, and defenders of private and local official vested interests who made money or derived other benefits from keeping a lid on expenditure on improving the capital’s sanitation.

    I am reading a stomach-churning book– Dirty Old London, by Lee Jackson, that covers the whole panorama of Victorian Filth. I am talking of street dirt, burials piled high, cess pools and sewers , smog, chimney soot, pestilence, and water (contaminated) – a positive panorama of nastiness, both environmental, and political.

    1858– 1958- 2008= 150 years. so, we are now 164 years after the improvers won out over a properly-designed London sewer system. The winning engineer was the well-known Bazalgette, who we could well dub the “Brunel of the Brown stuff.”

    The problem of contaminated water has not gone away , but , apart from improved treatment , we are still allowing our sewage to flow into the rivers and seas, untreated when the system can’t cope. So many roofs drain their water (illegally as well as legally) into the sewers. So many front gardens have been paved, resulting in some streets to an area of paved private space as big as the public road and footways. All that water has to go somewhere, whcih means the sewers and road drains–and then into the Wandle and virtually all rivers in England and Wales,

    It is going to get worse until the political parties get together to agree what needs to be done, and then–a big “if” – it will only do so IF action is taken to stop high volumes of storm water from roofs and paved areas from entering the sewers.

    That enforcement action is going to be very costly, and politically costly, as no-one wants to force the public to stop what they should not be doing, ie letting water from their property enter the drains and sewers.

    Merde ! The French kicking up because our s..t is floating over the Manche and affecting the fishing and bathing waters of La belle France?

    Good on them !

    As with the great stink, the likelihood is that it has to get very very, really awfully bad before a political consensus is reached here in grim and gritty, penny-wise pound fooolish Post-Brexit Britain.

    Will Truss or Sunak have the political will to do anything about the problem ?

    The pollution of water, whether river, stream, or sea, by untreated or part-treated sewage and any urban storm runoff is a blight on this grey and septic isle.

    Stop the abuse of our planet’s waters NOW !

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