Punk legend accuses Thames Water of dumping 530 days of sewage into river

Emily Cleary
·3 mins read
Former Undertones frontman Feargal Sharkey has hit out at Thames Water for polluting his local river and the River Thames. (PA Images via Getty Images)
Former Undertones frontman Feargal Sharkey has hit out at Thames Water for polluting his local river and the River Thames. (PA Images via Getty Images)

Punk legend Feargal Sharkey has accused Thames Water of dumping 530 days worth of sewage into the River Kennet.

Sharkey, who fronted 70s band The Undertones, is a keen fisherman and has complained to the company that they are polluting his local river.

In a series of tweets the singer, 62, raged at the water company and called on the Environment Agency to address the matter.

He said: “The River Kennett - some 46 miles of chalk stream one of the rarest habitats on earth, designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, one of the highest forms of legal protection in the country, and in 2019 Thames Water spend 12,734 hours on 4,628 occasions dumping sewage into it.

The River Kennet runs from Wiltshire through to Reading in Berkshire, where it meets the Thames. (Getty Images)
The River Kennet runs from Wiltshire through to Reading in Berkshire, where it meets the Thames. (Getty Images)

“And the Environment Agency does what exactly?

“By the time the river gets to Kintbury just 12.5 miles later a further 1,233 hours worth of sewage has been dumped into the river. Running totals, 22.5 miles from source, 2,869 hours worth of sewage, equivalent of 199 whole days.

“Finally by the time we get to Reading, the confluence with the Thames, 12 miles downstream from Woolhampton a further 4,628 hours worth of sewage has been dumped into the river. Running totals, 46.5 miles from source, 12,734 hours worth of sewage, equivalent of 530 whole days.”

Thames Water acknowledged the duration of sewage discharge but said it was due to storms and so was "heavily diluted".

It added discharges into rivers stopped flooding in homes and streets.

A spokesman said: "We work hard to minimise storm discharges, while also looking at how we can improve the system for the future, including reducing groundwater infiltration and increasing capacity.

"We've also invested heavily in monitoring equipment to understand how frequently spills occur and help us plan improvements."

He added sewage discharges were not "the only sources of pollutants" but that "animal faeces from livestock and wildlife, along with run-off from farms and roads, also contribute to the hazards".

Sharkey said: "In Thames Water you're talking about a company that has paid billions of pounds in dividends to shareholders. Perhaps they should have spent some of that money in maintaining and upgrading their sewage networks."

Sharkey (centre) shot to fame in the late 70s as frontman of The Undertones. (WireImage)
Sharkey (centre) shot to fame in the late 70s as frontman of The Undertones. (WireImage)

A Thames Water spokesman said: "Our shareholders are in it for the long term and have not taken a dividend for three years to prioritise investment in improving service for customers, and to protect the environment."

Sharkey, who describes himself as “a lifelong fly-fisher” shot to fame as frontman of The Undertones in the late 1970s. The band’s debut single Teenage Kicks has been ranked as the second best indie song of all time.

He recently appeared on BBC2’s Gone Fishing and sang Teenage Kicks with the show’s stars Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse.

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