- Lakes at Syon Park affected as well as Northumberland and Crane rivers.
- An estimated 10,000 fish are now believed to have been killed
- Water quality has benefited substantially from heavy rain over the weekend but people and pets still advised to stay out of the water
- Thames Water have accepted responsibility
- Thames Water are likely to be prosecuted
from Ed Randall
On the weekend of 28th and 29th October there was a major pollution incident on the River Crane when a large volume of raw sewage was released from an outfall adjacent to the A4 (Bath Road) river crossing at Cranford in the London borough of Hounslow. The sewage rapidly polluted the entire river system downstream to the River Thames, including the main River Crane, the Duke of Northumberland’s River and the lakes at Syon Park. The diverse wildlife of the River Crane suffered very badly as a direct result of this pollution. The latest estimate of fish mortalities stands at over 10,000 and recent surveys indicate a total loss of fish and invertebrates from the river system and the associated sediment.
Thames Water has accepted full responsibility for the incident. FORCE Trustees have met with senior staff at both the water company and the Environment Agency to hear about the current status of the river and to discuss the way forwards. We have stressed that such an incident should never be allowed to happen again. We were reassured to learn that a full review of its circumstances and the lessons to be learned for practices throughout the sewer network will be carried out by Thames Water.
The river has benefited from heavy rainfall over the weekend and we have been told that the water quality has largely recovered. There are still concerns about the microbiology of the river and adjacent wetland areas. The Environment Agency is still recommending that people and their pets stay out of the river until further tests have been completed.
Environment Agency experts have said that it will take some months for river life to start to recover and several years for its full biodiversity to return. Local people have expressed concern about water voles and kingfishers, seen by many on the river over the last few years. We understand that water voles were probably not affected at the time of the incident, but observations for any longer term effects will continue. The kingfishers are likely to have left the lower Crane to find food elsewhere. Their future return may provide one early indication that the river is recovering. Plans for supporting the return of the decimated fish stock will be drawn up over the next few months.
Longer term commitments
Thames Water is very likely to be prosecuted for this incident and the case will take some time to come to court. In the mean time Thames Water and the Environment Agency have pledged to work hard over the coming months and years to support and encourage the return of life to the river. Thames Water has further stated its intention to see the river improved compared to its historical condition over a five year timescale, investing sufficient resources to make this happen. FORCE welcomes these pledges and we plan to engage constructively with both organisations over the next few years to help ensure that they are met.
Improvement works continue
In the interim it is vital that recent improvement works to the green spaces adjacent to the river are continued and we shall continue to work with all the interested parties to ensure that this happens. Next Sunday we are holding one of our regular workdays, near to the Mill Road entrance in Crane Park, and we welcome anyone wishing to work with us or to find out more about what we do.
What you can do to help.
Our members and other local people have been asking how they can help and - as well as attending our work days - you can be our eyes and ears on the river. All reports of river life over the next six months in the form of fish species, kingfishers, dragonflies, herons and crayfish for example, will be greatly appreciated. We shall relay this information to the Environment Agency and it will help to build a detailed record of the recovery process and allow the intelligent planning of support actions such as fish stocking. Suggestions of improvements that can be made in the longer term would also be welcomed.