It takes a few millimetres of rainfall to cause the 34 most polluting combined sewer overflows (CSOs) to discharge into the River Thames. Currently, in a typical year, spillages to the tidal reaches of the River Thames occur about 60 times, with an estimated spill volume of 39 million cubic metres. Both the UK Government and the European Union have determined that the CSO discharges have an adverse environmental impact on fish species, introduce unacceptable aesthetics and elevate the health risks for recreational users of the Thames, with a frequency of discharge which is in breach of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive. Studies have established that the environmental objectives can be fully met on the most cost-effective basis by completing both quality improvements to treatment works and by the provision of a storage and transfer tunnel to intercept unsatisfactory CSOs. Extensive modelling has been undertaken to develop an optimised solution. In parallel with the design development a rigorous and comprehensive site selection methodology has been established to select sites and consult stakeholders and the public on the preferred sites and scheme, with the first stage of public consultation planned for later in 2010. The London Tideway Tunnels are an essential part of the delivery of improvements to the water quality of the tidal River Thames, and this ambitious, historic scheme represents a vital strategic investment in London’s infrastructure.

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