Thames Boxing Day swim called off after heavy rain causes sewage dump

Boxing Day swimmers called off their dips after heavy rain saw sewage dumped in the Thames on Sunday.

It came as bathers elsewhere in the country braved the cold waters to take part in their own annual Boxing Day dip. 

Thames Water alerts warned that untreated sewage was being released into the river at Witney, Oxfordshire, and west London at the weekend.

Academic Dr Fiona Tolan is part of a group that usually swims every Sunday near Wolvercote, on the outskirts of Oxford, but their Boxing Day dip was cancelled after the sewage release from Witney.

The sewage release started at 1am on Christmas Day, Thames Water said, adding that it can sometimes take up to four days for the sewage to clear.

Sewage was also released from Mogden sewage treatment works in Isleworth, west London, and from pumps at Hammersmith on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, according to official alerts.

Dr Tolan said: “We always have to check the Thames Water sewerage release notifications before we swim.

“We were really disappointed not to be able to swim today – and I’m personally very upset that this is allowed and enjoyment of the local environment is spoiled by dirty water,” she said.

Sewage releases into rivers and the sea happen when the system becomes full with combined rainwater and waste from households and businesses.

Water companies are supposed to release it without treating it only on rare occasions after heavy rainfall but figures show this is often happening on dry days too due to insufficient infrastructure.

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