Thursday, 23 August 2012

River On The Edge

On 17 September 2007 a chemical was accidentally flushed into The River from Thames Water's Beddington sewage works, the company failed to notify the Environment Agency, and the pollution washed downstream killing a reported 2,000 fish.

The company said they were 'mortified' by the incident and met with local clubs and charities to discuss restocking the river. Translation: We need some photos of local school children releasing baby trout into the river as soon as possible.

The company was fined £125,000 for the incident, although when the publicity had died down they appealed it and it was reduced to £50,000

Since then, through hard work by a variety of charities and clubs, The River has been cleaned up restocked and was recently reported to be the most improved river in England and Wales.

Lesson learned.

The photo above was taken yesterday, borrowed from The Wandle Trust website. A fire at the same sewage treatment works has knocked out the power, there are no redundant systems in place to isolate the plant from the river and pollution is once again flowing downstream.

I'm trapped at work, monitoring websites for any news, but I really want to get down there and have a look. I'm really hoping it is not going to be as bad as the last incident - time will tell.

Where am I going with this? Perhaps this time, instead of a small fine and a publicity stunt, they should be forced to put a system in place to stop it happening a third time. Perhaps all companies with the potential to destroy an environment should - yeah, as Wayne from Wayne's World said - and monkeys might fly out of my butt.

Latest updates are here.


  1. Unfortunately this is the X factor of industry. When paying a few fines and restocking a stretch of river is so pathetically less money than paying to implement a fail safe system then it will never be done. What a tragedy for what looks like a fascinating little river.
    When the fines actually amount to more than a temporary inconvenience for the offender(s) then, and only then will a real solution be sought.
    I hope this turns out 'better' than you are expecting.

    1. Fines are budgeted for, so another little fine will make no difference. Money is the driving factor and a fish kill is just something for the PR section to sweep away.

      "Say you're mortified... And get a photo of some school kids introducing some baby barbel"

      A fail safe system to isolate the plant from the surrounding environment should be compulsory - and these companies shouldn't be allowed to operate without one. But who's going to change the law just to save a few fish?

  2. Fish were stocked back into the Wandle around 2000,in four or five areas from Hackbridge down to Wandsworth.As far back as 2002 we were catching some nice fish of most species.

    We have seen subsequent stockings by the EA after various pollution incidents.As I said back in 2007 as did many,it will happen again and again.It's a river in an urban environment and suffers just like the Don and Aire,the Aire in Leeds getting hit by red diesel only last week.

    I stopped fishing the Wandle a good few years back owing to the litter problem.It's obscene to be honest.Not every angler who fished the Wandle is a litter bug,but many are.Again an urban river will always have this issue,its a malaise that blights our society as a whole.But who wants to fish surrounded by crap.

    This may seem defeatist?Two of us were talking today and feel no new stockings should take place.The next pollution incident is always just around the corner.I would advocate letting Mother Nature having a go on her own.Until things improve on the pollution front(I do not think it ever will happen),it's a waste of time to reintroduce fish.

    As I said defeatist,but with a nod to maybe common sense.

    1. The river has come a long way from open sewer to where it is today. And I'm hoping this is just a set back. And I'm sure there will be more along the way.

      I've only fished the river for 2 years but I've really fallen in love with it.

      The litter is a real problem, but most of the fishermen I talk to are picking it up, not producing more. But you are right - in some areas it's a loosing battle.

      Polluting and re-stocking is not the answer, it takes years for the fish to re-establish themselves and grow into the specimens we want to catch... Plus newly stocked fish are an easy target for the cormorants!

      The pollution problem needs to be addressed, something the Wandle Trust is working hard to do.

      It just annoys me when a simple system could prevent these things from happening.

  3. Hi Brian i met you briefly a couple of weeks ago when you was looking for ravensbury park,anyway i went down to poulters park today where spoke to a man from the ea who was netting and removing the dead fish he said they had about 12 bags of dead fish but did not know how many were removed yesterday he also said that there seemed to more barbel than other species also the biggest was about 12lb. such a shame yet again. I then went on to ravensbury park where i bumped into an old friend who i used to fish with many years ago so stayed with him chatting why he was fishing and he had plenty of roach and plenty of bites so hopefully it has not reached this section of the river. hope this helps abit.

    1. Hi Paul, it was good to meet you. And yes I was lost (looking for Ravensbury Park is a nice way to phrase it).

      So far it's looking like the pollution was mostly dealt with above RP, although there are reports of dead fish in there.

      Fingers crossed we're over the worst of it now. Thanks for letting me know.

  4. I haven't managed to get down the river, not being able to escape from work until after dark, but I have had a few phone calls and emails from people on the scene. And I've been reading the updates on the websites.

    From what I can tell; the stretch directly below the spill has suffered a major fish kill but the Wandle Trust and the Environment Agency have concentrated their efforts on stopping it spreading downstream, which at the time of writing this seems to be working. Only time will tell.

    Hopefully a full assessment of the extent of the damage will be published and I'll re-publish or link to it here.

    I'm hoping this is just a set-back on the river's recovery and perhaps some lessons have been learned. At least this time the EA was contacted straight away.

  5. Just a heads up Brian, they are taking about the Wandle and it's pollution on Keith Arthur's show tomorrow on talksport radio. 6.00am to 8.00am I think.

    1. Thanks, didn't spot this comment in time so I missed it. Was it any good? Or did they just argue about fines?