Reg. Charity No. 1091000

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Hackbridge river restoration project underway!

After months of planning and preparation the weir removal and river restoration project at Hackbridge is finally underway!

Those of you who have crossed the road bridge over the river or walked along the Wandle Trail in the past few weeks will have seen big changes with heavy machinery in the river, the sound of breaking concrete and the sight of a river re-emerging.

Our skilled contractors Cain Bioengineering with site manager Nick and his team of Alex and Jimmy have been working hard to bring to reality our vision for the river.

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Gravel, stakes and hazel faggot bundles at the ready in the compound:

The work started with the removal of the heavily creosoted toeboarding from around the edge of the island.

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Toeboarding removed from the island and an old speaker found in the river!:

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The toeboarding still smelt strongly of creosote after many years in the riverbank:

A new island bank line was then created with hazel faggot bundles secured with chestnut stakes and backed with coir netting in order to extend the island and narrow the river.  Sediment from the channel (of which there was a lot!) was then placed behind the new bank line.  This sediment is a result of the weirs slowing the water flow and causing sediment particles to settle out and smother the natural gravel bed.

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Scraping sediment to place behind the new bank line:

After the creation of a new bank line parts of the island were regraded to create a gradually sloped bank that will be planted up at a later date with plants suitable for the different habitat zones created. The dead trees were retained as they are an important habitat for all sorts of creatures including bats, woodpeckers and invertebrates.

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Regrading the island with the excavator:

With the bed nearest the weir cleared of much of the sediment the weirs were breached and the process of breaking up the old weir structures begun.  The weir was found to be made up of cast iron plates, concrete, brick and lumps of chalk.  The cast iron was recycled and the proceeds will be converted into a pair of waders for our volunteer events!

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Smashing up the old weir:

Once the weirs were breached the water levels dropped upstream and the process of narrowing the channel was started with a combination of more posts and faggot bundles or stone.

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Forming a new bank line to narrow the river:

A sinuous meandering channel is starting to take shape and will allow for a variety of depths and flows with deeper faster flowing outside bends and shallower slower flowing inside bends providing varied habitats.

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Starting to take shape:

There have been many practical challenges along the way with sewer pipes, water mains and electricity cables criss crossing the river to be identified and avoided.  The joys of urban river restoration projects!

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Locating an electricity cable:

Look out for more updates as the work takes shape over the next week!

We will be holding a number of planting events to plant the island with native plant species in early September so please get in touch if you are interested in getting involved.

August 22, 2014   1 Comment

Wandle cleanup: August 2014: Sutton

The one with the remnants of Hurricane Bertha

After weeks of beautiful sunshine, we had everything crossed that the torrential rain forecast for the day of our cleanup would somehow miraculously steer clear of Beddington Park.   To begin with it seemed fine…

…. and then the heavens opened and it lashed down for 45 minutes.

Waiting to see whether any volunteers would turn up at all, we were astonished, but delighted, to see 10 people appear through the swish of the van’s windscreen wipers.

In addition, Amanda, a presenter/producer from Living Surrey – a television programme, which as its name suggests, features county interviews, news and more – had emailed to say that she would like to come and film us at work on the same day.

During a lull in the downpour, our hardy volunteers all decided that, as they had turned up and were already quite wet, that they would like to do something rather than go home.  Hurray!

So, in a rather pared down version of our usual cleanup, we got kitted up in waders and gloves, took builders bags, bin bags and litter pickers in 3 wheelbarrows, stored all our personal belongings in the van, and trekked off into the soggy parkland to pull up the remaining stands of Himalayan balsam, spotted the Saturday before.

We pulled up a good few stands in the little wetland under the trees

and having wheeled these to the car park just off London Road, where Sutton Council had asked us to put it, we started on the bank just by the stone and flint bridge.

We were making excellent progress when we received a telephone call from Amanda to say she and David, the cameraman, had arrived.

So this seemed a good time to take a break.  Even though we’d brought all the bits and pieces for  refreshments, we decided that it was easier to take our chocolate muffins to the Pavilion cafe and buy all the volunteers teas and coffees instead of firing up the gas boiler.

Amanda and David joined us at the picnic benches outside the cafe and began interviewing our volunteers, asking them what it was that motivated them to turn out on such a wet day!  Tune into the programme on Sky 192 from 15th August at 7pm (or go to their website – Episode 6) to find out what they said!

With a camera and sound boom in tow, we went back to our HB bashing and everyone was filmed pulling up the few remaining stands

loading them into the builders’ bags or wheeling them all away.

Finally, when we all agreed that it was a ‘wrap’,  we went our separate ways home for hot baths and dry clothes

but not before AJ tipped out one last bag of HB on to the pile in the car park before we set off for the garage.

Huge thanks to AJ who helped load up, drive and unload the van, to Bill Wyatt and Ian Hudson who organised the removal of the balsam, and to our small team of valiant if rather sodden volunteers:

AJ, Ali, Bert, Charles, Chris, David, Per, Rose, Sid and Tony

August 17, 2014   No Comments

PS

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July’s picnic was our chance to say thank you and farewell (in due course) to Erica who has organised and run the monthly cleanups since November 2008. She has only missed one – a friend of hers was celebrating a 50th birthday with an elegant lunch at a hotel in Sussex – an invitation she couldn’t refuse – but Erica still came and loaded up the van on that morning, leaving Andy and me to drive to the location and supervise the volunteers!

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Erica has decided to join her family in East Anglia and even we have to agree that this location is a little too far to just ‘pop down’ to the Wandle and see which bits need cleaning up. So, whilst we were all relaxing on the grass with our delicious picnic, we made a few speeches, presented her with a card signed by everyone, containing something for her to spend in John Lewis, as well as giving her a Jane Porter original ‘Wandle’ picture (note the eels in the car tyre!)

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and, of course, a coconut! Our regular volunteers know that when we decided to keep a record of the amount and type of rubbish removed from the Wandle, there would inevitably be a coconut. Curious as to why this was, Erica researched the reasons and wrote a piece for our newsletter (it’s to do with the Hindu festival of Ganesh). Since then, it’s been an ongoing symbol of our efforts to protect the river.

She wanted me to let you know that she was absolutely thrilled with her presents and sends a huge thank you to everyone. She was so touched by all your good wishes and hopes to catch up with you all as she’ll continue to organise the cleanups until a successor has been appointed, and will help handover to the new person too.

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Erica says she will definitely be back to pick up a litter picker and bin bag and be part of the happy band of volunteers that make Wandle cleanups the success they are.

I’m sure those of you who know her would like thank her for her commitment and for the hard work she has put in since she became involved with the trust around 15 years ago, and wish her all the very best for the future.

 

August 2, 2014   No Comments

Wandle cleanup: July 2014: Sutton

The one with less Himalayan balsam but more rubbish  

So far this summer has been good – we’ve had some lovely, long, hot days – and the Sunday of our July cleanup should have been the same bearing mind that last year we nearly expired in the heat!

A few showers threatened, but that didn’t prevent 41 volunteers turning up to bash Himalayan balsam and pick up rubbish from the Wandle in Beddington Park.

Having written an extremely good book on invasive species it was wholly appropriate for Theo to tell everyone about HB, where it came from, how to remove it and to show those who were new to balsam bashing, what the plant looked like.

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After the mini tutorial, our volunteers, who were already clad in waders, took wheelbarrows and other bits of equipment and trekked across the meadow to the red brick bridge

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ready to get into the river and get started.

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Just to make sure that we had deployed our volunteers to the right location, Theo and I went to Richmond Green, where we started balsam bashing in 2009, to see if there were any ‘stands’ there.

To our enormous delight, there were none – at all!  There were none either on the way down to Guy Road, none in the culvert that runs under Beddington Lane, and none in the first part of the park.  There were a few in the small ‘wetland’ which Theo got rid of, but the remainder were located on the right angled stretch where we’d sent our volunteers.

As well pulling up all the HB, there was rubbish to collect too, but not before the skeleton of some curious creature was spotted under the surface of the water!

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There was a quick but heavy shower fairly early on and Tim, AJ, Helen and others huddled under some overhanging branches to take shelter.

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After the shower blew over, our hardy volunteers resumed their balsam removal.

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For such a short stretch of river, there were an astonishing 8 shopping trolleys found – all branded ASDA as Roger pointed out to Jason:

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and brought back to the dumpsite located in the corner of the car park.  Nick wheeled this one in a barrow accompanied by Jonathan, Jez and Bella.

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We decided work was over for the day by 1.30 as Sally and Jana called us to say that they were ready to serve up the picnic.  We have one annually as a way of saying thank you to our wonderful volunteers who turn out in all weathers and who work so hard to rid the Wandle of both rubbish and HB.

Jana had made some delicious plaited loaves:

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Sally produced rice and pasta salads as well as the usual green leaf varieties, and we rounded everything off with cake and strawberries and cream.  Wow!  Huge thanks to them both for all the delicious food

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which we enjoyed whilst sitting on the grass in the sunshine.

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Our thanks to David of Sutton’s Waste Management Team for organising collection of all the rubbish and the HB.

Huge thanks to Gideon and AJ who loaded up and unloaded the van, even though they got stuck in horrendous traffic in Colliers Wood on the way back to the garage.

Thank you to all our volunteers: Abi, AJ, Alexandra,  Bella, Charles, Denis, Eliot, Gearoid, Gideon, Graham,  Helen, Ian, Jan, Jana, Jane, Jason, Jez, Joe, John L, John N, Jonathan, Keith R, Keith S, Leonie, Marion, Mark, Michael, Mike, Nicola,  Nick, Paul, Per, Roger, Rose, Sally, Sally Ann, Sid, Theo, Tim, Toby and Wally.

Who removed:  1 moss rake, 1 piece of chipboard, 1 ‘To Let’ sign, 1 flowerpot, 1 SuperMario, 1 set of bedsprings, 1 toy bunny, 1 folding chair, 1 garden chair, 2 crutches, 2 wheels, 2 tyres, 2 oil containers, 5 gas cylinders and 8 shopping trolleys.

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1 pile of Himalayan balsam.

All photographs Sally Ann Symis

 

July 27, 2014   No Comments

Two New Project Officer Positions with the Wandle Trust

The Trust is advertising two new Project Officer roles:

  • The first will deliver water quality enhancements including our volunteer pollution monitoring project
  • The second will support volunteers and empower them to help deliver river restoration works (this post is part-funded and supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Living Wandle programme).

Further details can be found in the links below and the deadline for applications is 5 pm on 14th July and 11 am on 15th July, respectively. Interviews will take place in the week commencing 21st July.

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ProjectOfficerVolunteerSupport_JobDescription

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June 24, 2014   No Comments

Wandle cleanup: June 2014: Sutton

The one with the iron, the ditch and the sward-phobe!

On a lovely, warm summer’s day, 36 volunteers assembled at Culvers Avenue to cleanup round the island, and to work their way up to Hackbridge Road, picking up rubbish and removing Himalayan balsam stands, if they could find any.  Tim is overseeing some river restoration at this site over the coming months, so a pre-works cleanup was just what was needed.

We divided ourselves into two groups to tackle both the left and right hand arms of the river.

Up first, Gideon rescued a Care Bear by the leg:

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whilst Roger, with a paint tray in one hand, wondered what it was he had just picked up in the other!

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The small party of volunteers who tackled the right hand arm of the Wandle, wheeled back barrow after barrow of light litter, particularly cans of Red Stripe.

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As volunteers waded upstream in the cool shallows of the Wandle searching for rubbish, it was easy to imagine ourselves in the Surrey countryside of bygone days.

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Just before we stopped for a refreshment break, Gideon found a little purple pipe:

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Meanwhile Abi and Jo joined Roger at the growing rubbish pile to unload their trugs.

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We trooped back to the gazebo to enjoy tea, coffee, squash and delicious cakes brought by Ann, Jana and Sally.  There were bananas in one and raspberries in another so we decided we would count a slice of each towards our 5 (or is it 7) a day!

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Gideon, however, brought his own lunch, a much more healthy option, and settled down for a prandial natter with Tim who decided not to sit on the grass, but relaxed in the Kiwi-painted wheelbarrow that Jo had donated some months earlier.

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With one eye on the future we always like to encourage younger volunteers to help out, and this young man wanted to prove that he was old enough to join in by putting on a pair of gloves:

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After lunch, when we were refreshed and had topped up our sunscreen, we continued up towards Hackbridge Road.

Picking up rubbish can be hard work and sometimes when it’s hot, you just have to sit down where it’s coolest:

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All too soon it was time to down tools, have a final count up of the types and quantity of rubbish removed from the river, load up the van and head on home.

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Grateful thanks to David of Sutton’s Waste Management Team for organising collection of all the rubbish.

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Huge thanks to Gideon and AJ who loaded up the van, and to Gideon again who helped unload the van back at the garage.

Thanks to all our volunteers:  Abi, Adam, AJ, Ann, Bella, Bill, Charles, David, Diana, Eliot, Gearóid, Gideon, Graham, Helen H, Helen O, Jamie, Jana, Jane, John, Jo H, Jo S, Ken, Marianne, Nick B, Nick H, Paul, Roger, Rose, Russell, Sally, Sally Ann, Sid,  Theo, Tim, Vera and Will.

Who collected:  1 flowerpot, 1 stirrup pump, 1 garden chair, 1 mini snooker table, 1 child’s slide, 1 wheelbarrow, 1 tea light holder, 1 fire extinguisher, 1 carpet sweeper, 1 buggy, 1 radio-controlled boat, 1 suitcase, 1 hanging basket, 1 Jaguar steering wheel, 1 umbrella, 1 window frame, 1 road barrier, 1 child’s bicycle, 1 CD player, 1 car tyre, 1 office chair, 1 ornamental snail, 1 golf ball, 1 iron, 1 laptop, 2 bicycle tyres, 3 children’s scooters, 50 bin bags of light litter, and, of course, there’s always a coconut!

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All photographs Sally Ann Symis

June 18, 2014   No Comments

New book: The Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing

Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing

We are very excited to announce the recent publication of a new book by our Chairman of Trustees, Theo Pike, entitled ‘The Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing – and how to tackle other Invasive Non-Native Species’.

This ground-breaking 96-page handbook includes more than 40 invasive non-native species (INNS) such as Himalayan balsam, giant hogweed, Chinese mitten crabs, signal crayfish and mink, with practical advice on how individuals and community groups like ours can take action against them or stop them spreading further.

Even reporting a sighting of oak processionary moths or Asian longhorn beetles can make a big difference to protecting our natural biodiversity, and there is also a section on biosecurity measures like Defra’s Check-Clean-Dry advice.

Best of all, since this book was partly inspired by the work of the Wandle Trust and our wonderful volunteers, you may even recognise yourself in one of the photos.

Copies of the ‘Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing’ are available direct from the publishers, Merlin Unwin Books, or you can buy a signed copy from Theo at one of our community balsam bashing and river cleanup events!

May 20, 2014   No Comments

Trout in the Classroom 2014: A fond farewell

At the end of April, on a bright spring day, the Trout in the Classroom graduates of 2014 finally got the sending off they deserved. Five south London schools along with the Deputy Mayor of Merton (Councillor John Sargeant) and Wandle Trust staff and volunteers were there to mark the event.

The Deputy Mayor began proceedings with a perspective on just how far the river has come since he was a boy growing up in the area. He then gamely obliged us by stepping into a pair of waders and lowering himself into the river to help the children with the release.

Deputy Mayor talking at release 2014

There was no shortage of excitement on display. For the children, the day was the culmination of a fascinating journey of discovery into the life a native fish species – from egg to alevin to fry – literally opening up a whole new world.

Kenley fish at release 2014

As an adult watching the event, it strikes you how tangible the exhilaration of the children is – something that is perhaps no longer that familiar to us. It extended to secondary level – if in a more controlled fashion! – as students from Francis Barber PRU and Sutton Grammar also were clearly pleased to be in the river and part of the event.

Mayor with Kenley students at 2014 release

I was particularly interested in the reaction of students from Culvers House primary school, some of whom spent their time enthusiastically picking up litter and pointing out rubbish on the river bed. Although wishing to oblige them, by the time those in the water got around to looking for the rubbish, too much silt had been kicked up for it to be seen, to the disappointment of the children.

Kenley Release 2014

Their enthusiasm nonetheless impressed me, and it struck me how much their optimism and belief in their ability to make a difference is such a precious commodity that young people are uniquely gifted with, and is something that we should be doing our very best to protect and cultivate. It is a crucial part of changing things for the better. And with its story of successfully reintroducing a breeding population of brown trout into a once heavily polluted and industrial environment, Trout in the Classroom once again demonstrated how it can play such an important role in keeping that optimism alive.

Note: River pollution and Trout in the Classroom

Anyone familiar with TitC will notice that the release was a little later than usual. Normally timed to occur before the Easter holidays, the release day this year had to be postponed by a month on account of a significant pollution spill in the river.

Following the heavy rains over the winter, large amounts of water entered the works as a consequence of the high water table and mixed with the untreated sewage. This overwhelmed the treatment plant storage capacity and Thames Water were obliged to discharge the raw sewage directly into the River Wandle. Although no fish kills were reported, oxygen levels were severely depleted.

Even since the release, further pollution incidents have occurred. The connection to Trout in the Classroom is appropriate as it serves as a reminder how the Wandle is still a river with an uncertain future facing significant man-made threats. This is why education projects like TitC have a vital role in helping local people feel invested in the health of the river and the species that depend upon it, and can teach them to be alert to any deterioration in its condition. In turn, this could help build the consensus for the authorities and water companies to make the investments required to eliminate these threats.

(All photos: (c) Mike van der Vord)

May 16, 2014   No Comments

Wandle cleanup: May 2014: Sutton

The one with as many footballs as there have been World Cup tournaments

The weather forecast suggested showers on the day of our cleanup in Mill Lane, Carshalton, but even though 31 volunteers came prepared in wet weather gear, barely a drop of rain fell!

At the forefront of our minds was the awareness and avoidance of nesting birds.  Nesting season is March to August but as only one nest had been spotted, everyone was warned of its location, and we gave the area a wide berth.

We decided to tackle the river methodically, with volunteers getting in just downstream from Wilderness Island with a plan to work up to Grove Park, and from the outset an astonishing amount of rubbish was handed over the fence to others waiting expectantly with bin bags and wheelbarrows.

First up, Theo found a car’s rear light unit, still in its plastic bag:

and in the same stretch John found a shock absorber:

Once the wheelbarrows were full, it was quite a long walk back to the dumpsite, but, our hardy volunteers are used to covering long distances:

We also agreed that woody debris would remain in the river, but lots of small items had accumulated up against various fallen branches and these required careful extraction.

We had reached the railway bridge by lunch time so everyone congregated round the gazebo and enjoyed tea, coffee and cheese scones, rock cakes with optional jam and a dotty chocolate sponge brought by Ann, Jana and Sally.

Knowing that we had to get all the way up to the park by 3pm, everyone tucked in and delicious it all was too!

After our refreshment break, Gideon and Per did a brilliant job clearing the fish pass upstream of Butter Hill bridge:

Whilst Tim and Rob utilised lots of muscle power picking up this concrete fence post:

And Joe was delighted to discover an abandoned bike. Although it had been in the water, the wheels still went round so he was able to ride it back to the dumpsite:

We found a cash box too, but, inevitably, it was empty.

Inspecting the rubbish pile at the end of the cleanup, there were quite a few groan-inducing remarks made about being ‘sold down the river’

and whether Handel’s ‘water music’ should be played on the keyboard!

Our thanks to David of Sutton’s Waste Management Team for organising collection of all the rubbish.

Huge thanks to Gideon who loaded and unloaded the van, to AJ who loaded up the van, and to John who arrived early to help unload at the site and to keep an eye on volunteers.

Thanks to all our volunteers:  Ann, Bella, Charles, David, Eliot, Gideon, Gillian, Graham, Ian, Jamie, Jana, Jane, Jason, John B, John  L, John N, Joe, Keith, Patrick, Per, Rob, Roger, Rose, Russell, Sally, Sid, Sue, Theo, Tim, Wally and Will.

Who collected

1 carrier bag full of Hindu offerings, 1 hardback book in French, 1 keyboard, 1 tin of paint, 1 curtain pole, 1 fox’s skull, 1 shopping trolley, 1 cash box, 1 flowerpot, 1 ‘sold’ sign, 1 tricycle, 1 satellite dish, 1 car rear light unit, 1 shock absorber, 1 CD, 2 road cones, 2 tyres, 2 chairs, 2 drainpipes, 2 coconuts, 2 parts of a kitchen sink, 2 duvets, 2 bicycles, 3 wooden stakes, 3 concrete fence posts, 3 pieces of chipboard and 19 footballs.  We also filled 90 bin bags with bottles, sweet wrappers, empty plastic bags and cans.

Wildlife: 1 bullhead in a yoghurt pot which was quickly returned to the river!

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This event was supported by a Sutton Neighbourhood Fund

 

May 13, 2014   No Comments

New pollution issue: Monday 12 May 2014

We have had reports from Thames Water and the Environment Agency of a new issue on the Wandle (possibly a different one from Friday’s issue). There is pollution entering the river from the sewage effluent channel at Watermeads Lane which has potential to become a serious issue for the river. There are a number of channels and outfalls that feed into the effluent channel (not just the sewage treatment works) and the source and identity of the pollutant is unknown at present. The EA and Thames Water are currently investigating.

Please can you keep your eyes and noses on the river.

If you see any signs of pollution (rags, solids, smell, suspended solids, murky water and especially fish or wildlfe in distress) please call the EA on 0800 807060.  

Any observations anywhere downstream of the effluent channel confluence (photo and a note of what you can see/smell) would be appreciated to pollution@wandletrust.org or call on 07771770418

May 12, 2014   3 Comments