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Posts from — December 2007

Thames Water’s settlement for the Wandle

Today, after much constructive negotiation on behalf of the Wandle Trust, the Wandle Piscators, the Morden Hall Park Angling Club and riparian owners, the Anglers’ Conservation Association announced that Thames Water would support the restoration of the Wandle with a 5-year partnership project led by the Wandle Trust, worth a total of £500,000.

This was the largest-ever settlement by a polluter in the history of the ACA – and by extension the largest-ever in the United Kingdom.

Here’s the text of the ACA’s press release:

 £500,000 to restore River Wandle

An historic agreement has been reached that will see more than £500,000 being paid by Thames Water to restore and improve the River Wandle over the next 5 years.

This follows the serious pollution incident on 17 September, which saw thousands of fish killed and a significant impact on invertebrate and plant life in the river. Thames Water admitted responsibility for the incident within days and has apologised unreservedly to the local community and angling clubs. The Anglers’ Conservation Association has led negotiations which have concluded today with the largest settlement in the ACA’s 60 year history. The water company will today announce:

£7,000 project funding for a local education project;

£10,000 in compensation for the two angling clubs;

£30,000 to meet the costs of restocking and an ongoing survey to assess damage to the river’s ecology;

£200,000 core funding for the Wandle Trust to include support for the cost of an employee who will raise additional project funding to deliver access and habitat improvements along the length of the river;

£250,000 over 5 years for a restoration fund to support local projects to improve the river environment;

Investment in failsafe measures at Beddington Sewage Treatment works to prevent pollution like this ever happening again in the future;
The announcement of this project will not have any bearing whatsoever on any future criminal prosecution of Thames Water by the Environment Agency for the incident.

Mark Lloyd, Executive Director of the Anglers’ Conservation Association said:

“This incident has been transformed from a disaster into a triumph for the river by Thames Water’s genuine desire to put right the damage they caused back in September. The settlement we have negotiated provides the basis for a long term future for the River Wandle by giving the Wandle Trust the funding it needs to become a sustainable River Trust. It also compensates the anglers fully for their loss of angling amenity.”

Theo Pike, Trustee of the Wandle Trust and Senior Vice President of the Wandle Piscators said:

“September 17 was a catastrophe for the Wandle, but we are now delighted to be entering into this 5-year habitat rehabilitation project with Thames Water and the Environment Agency. With the security of significant funding, we’re looking forward to leading a genuine partnership of local stakeholders, helping a long stretch of the river literally come back from Year Zero, and restoring the Wandle as a world-class showcase for responsible community stewardship of urban waterways. We welcome all ideas for the future health of the Wandle, its habitats and biodiversity, and will shortly start collecting these via a web forum at http://www.wandletrust.org/

Thames Water’s CEO, David Owens said:

“Thames Water was quick to acknowledge that we caused this incident and we are acting quickly to not only restore, but improve the health of this important river. We have been working particularly closely with the Anglers’ Conservation Association, as well as other local groups to ensure that the programme being put into action now yields real and lasting results. It will provide the resources to support the ongoing stewardship of the river and create a fund which can be used to continually restore and improve the health of its habitats. We would like to thank the ACA for facilitating rapid and productive discussion with the Wandle Trust, the Environment Agency, the National Trust and the local community, which have enabled us jointly to begin what we will know will inevitably be a long process of rehabilitation.”

Notes to Editors:

1. The pollution was caused by sodium hypochlorite which was being used to clean tertiary treatment screens of accumulated bacterial matter and limescale at Beddington Sewage Treatment Works and was released into the river as a result of operator error.
2. The River Wandle flows into the tidal Thames through the London Boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Wandsworth in South London.
3. The ACA’s previous press release about the incident can be found at
www.a-c-a.org/whatsnew

December 11, 2007   No Comments

Wandle cleanup: December 2007: Merton

Despite the unpromising damp start to the day, nearly 30 volunteers turned up to clean the stretch in Merton upstream from North Road and along Wandle Bank. 

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The usual array of bits of old carpet, metal, bikes, wheels, tyres and of course shopping trolleys were pulled out of the cold, damp silt.  Care had to be taken as the water was fast flowing and deep in places. 

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A couple of trolleys were also retrieved from the river running alongside Sainsburys and were delivered back to the supermarket!

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As can be seen seasonal drinks were enjoyed afterwards in the William Morris at Merton Abbey Mills.  Nick Spencer was also presented with a t-shirt to mark his award of Wandle Trust Volunteer of the Year.

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Thanks to all our volunteers: Alan, Alex, Andy P, Chris, Diana, Duncan, Emilio, Erica, Gideon, Gill, Ion, Jane, John B, John M, John W, Miriam, Nathan, Neil, Nick M, Nick S, Nigel, Paul, Peter, Rob, Sally, Sue, Theo and Thomas

December 10, 2007   No Comments

Restocking the Wandle

Following September’s pollution incident, the ecological impact survey conducted by aquatic consultants APEM has now confirmed that there would be enough food in the river to support a very limited restocking of juvenile fish by the Environment Agency: nothing like the biomass that was lost in the pollution incident, but a welcome boost for the river’s stocks.

Here’s the text of the Environment Agency’s press release to accompany this initial restocking:

Restocking the Wandle

Environment Agency fisheries officers will release nearly 5,000 juvenile fish into the River Wandle in early December, in an attempt to rejuvenate the river devastated by a pollution incident earlier this year.

The release marks the first stage in what will be a long term restoration process. The batches of one to two year-old chub, dace, roach and barbel have been specially reared and trained for life in the wild at the Environment Agency’s Calverton Fish Farm in Nottinghamshire and will be released in three areas along the river.

In September 2007, a chemical spill killed tens of thousands of fish of varying ages, sizes and species along a five km stretch of the River Wandle between Beddington and Merton. The incident generated an enormous amount of public concern and the Environment Agency has been working closely with local anglers, the Anglers Conservation Association, the National Trust, the Wandle Trust, Thames Water Utilities Ltd and independent surveyors to determine the impact of the spill and decide on the most effective way to rehabilitate the river.

Post-pollution survey work by independent contractor (APEM) and the Environment Agency has shown that some species of fish were completely wiped out in the upper reaches of the river, closest to the pollutant’s origin. However, at the very bottom of the affected five km stretch, some fish survived.

Theo Pike of the Wandle Trust said:

“The recent surveys have confirmed the serious impact of the pollution, but they have also demonstrated that there is adequate food and shelter for this limited initial restocking. This is important because we need to give nature a helping hand to restore fish stocks as there are many barriers to the free movement of fish up and down the river, meaning natural recolonisation would be very slow.”

Tom Cousins, one of the fisheries officers assisting with the release of the new fish, said:

“Although it is important that the river is restocked so that we can spur on recovery and improve the river we need to remember that the size, quality and number of fish lost in the pollution incident means that it is impossible to physically buy or collect equivalent fish from elsewhere. It will take several years before these fish will be of a size to be of interest to recreational fishermen, and many years before they approach the size of those fish lost in the pollution incident.

“Analysis of scales taken from some of the fish carcasses that were collected in the aftermath of the pollution incident, show that the fish in the Wandle were above average in size when compared with that expected in similar rivers in the South of England. This is because the river was considered a highly productive river system, containing plenty of food for the fish.”

Despite these first steps towards nursing the river back to health, team leader for the Environment Agency Mike Denbigh commented:

“The Environment Agency plays a dual role in this situation. Although we are happy that restocking has begun, our investigation into this unfortunate incident is progressing well and we are preparing a case file for our legal department. With incidents of this severity it is the Environment Agency’s policy to fully investigate the incident and, where possible, to gather evidence for submission. Our Enforcement and Prosecution Policy and Guidance indicates that, where the evidence exists, the normal response to such an incident is to prosecute where the likely offender is identified. Carrying out a robust investigation and undertaking legal action is not a quick process.”

Notes to Editors

The opportunity to photograph the restocking of the Wandle and interview Environment Agency officers will take place on Thursday 6 December at 2.30pm, Ravensbury Park, Morden. There is no parking available on site. Please make your way to the footbridge over the Wandle via Ravensbury Lane or Wandle Rd next to Ravensbury Park.

This restocking is only possible due to the Environment Agency maintaining a coarse fish production facility for the entire UK, based in Calverton, Nottinghamshire. This is the largest fish farm of its type in Europe and millions of fish have been reared there. They are bred from only health certified broodstock and are specially conditioned in fast flowing water tanks to enable the young fish the best chance of survival in a river system upon release. This fish farm is paid for and operated using rod licence income from recreational anglers, such as those who fish along the River Wandle.

The Environment Agency will continue to monitor, via APEM and its own work, the fish populations in the Wandle, and use this data to inform its decisions on what levels of future restocking will be required.

December 6, 2007   No Comments