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London needs different approach to sewage spill problem, expert says

October 1, 2013

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Proposed plans for London's super sewer may not be as effective as many people believe and an alternative solution should be considered, according to the former director general of regulator Ofwat, Sir Ian Byatt.

Instead of investing an estimated £4.2 billion ($6.74 billion) to create a 16-mile sewer that would be wide enough to fit three double decker buses and is believed to be able to prevent raw sewage from spilling into the Thames, the biggest British water company -- Thames Water -- should look at a combination of smaller and cheaper projects that could achieve the same goal, Sir Ian told the Guardian.

The combined effect of these smaller projects, ranging from storm tanks to improved urban drainage, would help stop the contamination of the Thames with raw sewage. Sir Ian pointed out that the focus should not be on a particular project but on how to solve the problem. He called for a different approach to the issue, supporting the one used in the United States. Instead of embarking on expensive megaprojects, concentrating on making urban drainage more sustainable would be a better solution, he pointed out.

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According to the Guardian, raw sewage discharge in the Thames occurs every week and under EU regulations Thames Water is obliged to stop this from happening. The water company estimates that building the tunnel under the city would cost half as much as holding the London Olympic Games.

Ministers are expected to make a decision on the project by the summer or fall of next year, the newspaper said.