Most of us picture London’s sewers as a network of brick-lined tunnels infested with rats and other unsavoury pests. It’s a fairly accurate image but plans are afoot to construct a new super sewer that could run beneath the streets of Southwark or Tower Hamlets.
The huge drainpipe is being designed to capture the overflow from the existing sewer system, which regularly reaches capacity and spews raw waste into the River Thames. The project is going to cost over £3.6 billion and the tunnel will run deep underground for over 20 miles.
The exact route hasn’t been decided yet and part of the process to help determine where it will go was a public consultation, which closed recently. The most expensive option is to run the tunnel beneath the Thames but it could be diverted to cross either Southwark or Tower Hamlets.
When the route is chosen, the planners will get to work, followed by the builders. It’s a massive project that will take years to complete and the tunnel won’t be ready before 2020 at the earliest.
The notion that a sewer is home to countless rats should be dispelled by this twenty-first century scheme. Numerous pest control measures will be incorporated into the design and many of the materials used will be rodent-resistant.
Environmental health officials from across London will want to be sure that this new channel for waste won’t become the breeding ground for more vermin. They’ll want the confidence that increasing London’s capacity for handling sewage won’t also boost the local rat population.
Unfortunately, the new super sewer won’t replace the existing and aging Victorian tunnels. It will supplement them but the old network, with its millions of holes and crevices that make ideal homes for rats, will remain. This means that even with its new super sized flushing mechanism, London’s problems with pest control will remain.