Thames Water is polluting the Thames, the iconic river it is supposed to protect. Sewerage discharges are killing river life and making river swimmers sick.

In memory of London’s typhoid stricken past Ocean Rebellion asked a group of Victorian swimmers to take to the water and enjoy the discharges. After all it’s a water system they’ll know well – it was designed when they were young (two centuries ago).

Lounging in deckchairs after their (un)constitutional in the River Thames, the Bathing Beauties felt sick to their stomachs from all the toxins, excrement, household waste, baby wipes and effluent floating in the River. Since Victorian times, people have swum in this idyllic spot but now the idyll is being destroyed by Thames Water failing to sort their shit out.

Thames Water Co-CEO, Cathryn Ross, was invited to join and swim with The Henley Mermaids, but she declined, presumably because she can’t afford to take any days off sick. But her absence was a disappointment, given Cathryn has previously expressed her willingness to swim in Sewage Outflow, something Henley, unfortunately, has in abundance. Situated downstream of the Wargrave Sewage Treatment Works, Henley is subjected to ‘treated sewage’ discharges into the Thames 24/7. Additionally, Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) incidents in the heart of Henley have unleashed raw sewage into the Thames on at least eight occasions over the past six months. 

The Henley and Marlow River Action Group have been independently testing the river, revealing alarming levels of Phosphates and Nitrates, which directly threaten river wildlife. Moreover, E. coli and Enterococci, both harmful to human health, have been consistently detected by testing for Thames21’s Henley Bathing Water Project.

Dirty Water is everywhere, watch this video from Extinction Rebellion Teignbridge to find out more.

As if this weren’t enough, the Bathing Beauties also have to splash about in a toxic cocktail of damaging chemicals created by road pollution. This flows freely into England’s rivers without any regulator monitoring the scale of its impact on wildlife or public health. A cluster of 24 outfalls surround the River Kennet chalk stream area and its tributaries near Reading, and official data show the river system here has high levels of heavy metals and hydrocarbons, which are associated with road runoff. 80% of microplastics in the environment come from eroding car tyres and brakes blown into the air. These fall on soil, ice and water and end up in our food and our lungs; they also kill marine life everywhere.

The heady mix of sewage discharges from Thames Water, and the steady flow of road pollution into the river, can cause a reduction of oxygen, especially after heavy rainfall. In urban areas this is a perennial problem, leading to the deaths of fish and plant life along our river beds. 

UK river water is a sickening cocktail of chemicals and sewerage.

The fate of the Ocean depends on us all.
We’ll let you know what we’re doing to help.

“Freshwater fish are not the only forms of life under threat from water pollution. As our rivers and tributaries make their way to the ocean, we have no idea how these chemicals are accumulating. We must stop this continuous discharge to inland freshwaters and coastal waters of any poisonous, noxious or polluting matter, and end this destruction of marine life and habitats,” Suzanne Stallard, member of Ocean Rebellion.

only 20% of wastewater is treated

Around the world, only 20% of wastewater is treated.  Even in the UK, of the 9,000 wastewater plants, only 1,000 are designed to return water to the state in which it was originally taken for use. That means a staggering 80% of the world is dumping raw sewage into rivers, coastal waters and the oceans. But you’ll have worked out by now, despite nutrient enrichment and algal blooms, the poo and the pee are not the only problem, it’s the forever chemicals and plastic waste that are turning our beauty spots toxic.

the chemicals are multiplying and the ocean is dying

We hold the directors responsible for the corporate irresponsibility of Thames Water—they’ve given their shareholders the money we paid them to clean up all this shit. 

Directors are liable from their own assets if it turns out they paid dividends out of company capital, not reserves. Are you listening now, Thames Water board of directors?

Do we have your attention? 

Remember you could lose your homes. Maybe it’s not such a bright idea to give your shareholders all the money required to clean up the Thames. 

Laura De Moxom, member of Ocean Rebellion says,“This is an emergency. Failing to take regulatory control of this continued dumping into our rivers is throwing nature into crisis now. Climate breakdown and nature breakdown are effectively the same thing and both have to be stopped.”

Clive Russell adds, “Thames Water talks a great talk, but where is the CEO who said she’d be comfortable to swim in these waters? We need to reform the governance of waterways, impose fines on these companies and stop this destruction. Perhaps we need to force shareholders to pay back the money they’ve stolen?  It’s high time Thames Water sorted its shit out.”

The fate of the Ocean depends on us all.
Our interventions depend on your support.

Photos, from the top, by: 1, 3 and 4, Lisa-Marie Gibbs; 2, 5, 6 and 7, Michael Fyfe.

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