THAMES Water customers have received brochures which reveal they face an up-to-£80-a-year hike in their bills in order to fund the £4.1bn Fulham super sewer.
Nearly 14 million Thames Water customers from Essex to Gloucestershire, including Londoners, will be charged a premium on top of current bills for the rest of their lives to help pay for the 20-mile long Thames Tunnel. The increase is set to come in in 2014.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council - opposed to one of the main construction sites being housed in Carnwath Road, Fulham - calculates an 18-year-old living to the current life expectancy of 81-years-old would pay an extra £5,040 in water rates during their lifetime.
The authority says increasing numbers of residents are questioning whether the financial costs – combined with seven years of construction work – outweigh the environmental benefits of keeping 39 tonnes of sewage per year out of the river.
And it has warned many people on fixed incomes, like pensioners, will be driven into 'water poverty' under the current proposals and is calling for cheaper and greener solutions that will maintain the river's status as one of the cleanest in Europe.
Council leader Nick Botterill said: “The cost of this sewage storage tank under the river threatens to create a water bill life sentence - especially for pensioners and residents on fixed incomes. The cost of this huge engineering project is phenomenal compared to the modest benefits it will bring. Other cities have made their rivers cleaner using much cheaper and more environmentally friendly solutions.
“At a time when the budgets for the police, the armed forces, schools, transport and a whole range of local services are all being squeezed – are we really going to spend £4.1 billion on a gold-plated stink pipe?”
A spokesman for the firm said: "We previously made it clear that bills need to rise to pay for the cost of the Thames Tideway Tunnel and are now able to give our customers advance warning of the likely increase and the timing.
"Ofwat sets limits on water bills in line with the work that water companies need to do, and will scrutinise the Thames Tideway Tunnel costs to ensure they are kept as low as possible."
In 2011 Lord Selborne’s Thames Tunnel Commission recommended that green infrastructure solutions like SUDS, which minimise the amount of fresh rain water entering the sewerage system, should be considered instead of the super sewer – particularly in light of new EU legislation on environmental sustainability.