Houseboat Sewage Discharge Angers Residents

They say the river authority has no powers to take action on pollution


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Residents living along the river at Strand-on-the Green are annoyed by the level of sewage in the Thames which they believe emanates from houseboats moored north of Kew Bridge.

A spokesman for the Strand-on-the Green Residents' Association said that a reply to a request for information under the Environment Information Regulations, the Port of London authority (PLA) suggested that they had no powers to make prosecutions under the Water Resources Act.

A view of Strand-on-the-Green

The response from the PLA stated; “... although it is an offence under Section 85 (1) of the Water Resources Act 1991 to "[cause] or knowingly [to permit] any poisonous, noxious or polluting matter or any solid waste matter to enter any controlled waters" (controlled waters being virtually all fresh or saline waters extending up to three miles offshore), Section 89 (2) of the same Act provides that "[a] person shall not be guilty of an offence under section 85 above by reason of his causing or permitting any discharge of [.] sewage effluent from a vessel".

The residents' spokesman said this suggested that it was therefore perfectly lawful for houseboat owners to discharge sewage into the river.

“When the tide is high, the problem can be particularly bad since the water often comes up over the footpath and it is unpleasant to see detritus washing up," he commented.

The statement from the PLA added that it recognised that any sewage discharged into the river is "undesirable", and there were new byelaws currently awaiting approval by the Secretary of State which will make it unlawful to discharge sewage from houseboats into the river with effect from 1 January 2015.

"In anticipation of those byelaws, we have, for some time, been inserting a comparable condition into all new river works licences for houseboats. In the meantime, however, except where there is a recent river works licence in place, the Authority has no power to prevent discharges of sewage into the river, so it does not hold any information relevant to your enquiry."

The spokesman for the residents said that 2015 was a long way away ad it would be preferable if action could be taken more immediately. He said the residents living along the river at Strand on-the-Green also had questions as to how this new legislation would be policed and who would pay for any houseboats to have holding tanks converted.

He added that they would continue to monitor the situation and raise public awareness of the problem.

February 6, 2013

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