The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

TV star describes Thames pollution levels as ‘toxic’

Dangerously high levels of E.coli have been found in the Thames.

Thames Water confirmed its waterways are not safe to swim in last week, as it faced claims from television naturalist Steve Backshall that the pollution found in the river was “toxic”.

Samples taken by Mr Backshall close to Little Marlow Sewage Treatment Works on the border of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire were analysed by the Bangor University waste water research centre. The study found an estimated 39,000 gene count per litre of norovirus in the river; a gene count of 10 per litre can make a human ill. The river also contains E.coli bacteria and damaging levels of excess nutrients.

Mr Backshall asked Andrew Scott, head of waste water treatment for Thames Water, why it had not alerted the public that pollution was dangerously high. Mr Scott said it was “the normal operations of sewage works and part of our permit”.

He said: “We are not responsible for letting the public know if they can swim in the rivers… the Thames at this point isn’t considered a bathing water, therefore our effluent is not safe to swim in.”

Thames Water added all discharges from the site had been fully compliant with environmental law.

Andy Ford, presenter of fishing show On the Bank, said: “What Steve Backshall has done is immense. What Thames Water have done to the most famous river in the UK is shameful. They are a disgrace.”