Thames Water slammed as 'disgraceful' and 'now after our kids' as school trips and lessons 'cancelled' due to sewage deluge

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Thames Water has been slammed as “disgraceful” as school trips and lessons have been “cancelled” due to sewage pollution.

Action for the River Kennet (ARK), posted on X, formerly Twitter, that it was forced to cancel “three River Schools due to untreated sewage being discharged” just “upstream” of where it runs educational events with local schools, Cub and Beaver groups. The rivers trust, dedicated to protecting and restoring the rivers in the Kennet and Pang catchments in London, said the “ongoing river pollution is unacceptable” and “hugely disappointing for the children”.

The organisation added: “It's unacceptable for the wider local communities, including businesses that depend on healthy rivers, such as fisheries.”. The River Schools are run at a range of river locations in the catchment and activities can often be tailored to age, ability, and objectives of the group.

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The rivers trust posted screenshots of Thames Water’s live sewage map on X which shows that “discharge had been recorded in the last 48 hours” at at Winterbourne which feeds into the Winterbourne Stream. The sewage discharges continued across three days from 6 to 9 July. The sewage discharge stopped on 9 July at 12pm.

Thames Water has been slammed as “disgraceful” as school trips and lessons have been “cancelled” due to sewage pollution. (Photo: Getty Images)Thames Water has been slammed as “disgraceful” as school trips and lessons have been “cancelled” due to sewage pollution. (Photo: Getty Images)
Thames Water has been slammed as “disgraceful” as school trips and lessons have been “cancelled” due to sewage pollution. (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

The organisation wrote on X: “We've had to cancel 3 River Schools due to untreated sewage being discharged from the Winterbourne Sewage Treatment Works directly in the Winterbourne Stream, just upstream of where we run lots of in river River Schools with local schools & Cub & Beaver groups. @thameswater has no imminent plans for improvements to this failing sewage treatment works, that has been pouring regularly throughout the year.

“Since Saturday (6 July) the Winterbourne STWs has poured untreated into the stream for 63 hrs & 45 minutes. This ongoing river pollution is unacceptable! It's hugely disappointing for the children, we are working hard to organise River Schools at alternative stretches It's unacceptable for the wildlife which requires good water quality.”

James Wallace, CEO of River Action UK, responded to the post on X saying: “School trips and science lessons cancelled thanks to @thameswater pollution of chalk streams. Unsatisfied with ripping off bill payers, they’re now after our kids”. Another user responded: “Just disgraceful. Denying life experiences to our children. Denying them the pleasure of being with Nature, learning and enjoyment. Time to prosecute this profiteering water company.

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It comes as Thames Water is currently under fire after its annual report warned that it will run out of money by next June - all the while its CEO has taken a £195k bonus, its profits have increased and it paid two fresh dividends worth £158.3 million in March. The report also revealed that its debt has swelled even more, now reaching over £15 billion, and its sewage pollution incidents have increased.

The company’s financial update will be followed on Thursday by a draft verdict from Ofwat on water companies’ five-year spending plans and bill increases to 2030. That will kick off six months of negotiations with Ofwat, ahead of its final decision in December.

Asked how worried the government is about the future of Thames Water, communities minister Jim McMahon said: “We recognise that, over the last 14 years, frankly, the water industry hasn’t been regulated anywhere near as firmly as it should have been, and we haven’t seen the investment to deal with the sewage scandal.” He said there is a need for reform and for regulation to be looked at, adding: “The days of putting shareholder interest above the national interest, frankly, can’t carry on and so we do need to look at that and Thames do need to look at their own house and get it in order.”

NationalWorld has contacted Thames Water for comment.

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