Pollution in the River Crane… Again

River Crane

River Crane

[UPDATE: See the comments section for latest info on the cause of the pollution and on the efforts to find the culprits.]

Almost two years after the sewage spill which caused serious damage to its aquatic life, the River Crane has again been affected by pollution. The incident, probably took place on 3rd or early on the 4th October (precise details tbc). The Environment Agency spent much of Friday at the river investigating the incident and measuring and testing the water. By Saturday morning oxygen levels were rising again although the advice coming from the Agency was for owners to keep their dogs (and their children) out of the river. According to the London Borough of Hounslow website, the source of the pollution was traced to an outfall pipe upstream of the A30. The site quotes Mark Heelis of the Environment Agency as saying: “This is a significant incident and it appears that many fish have been killed”. So, more bad news for this long suffering river.

On Tuesday, @envagencySE told us on Twitter: “It was a damaged sewage sludge pipe in the Cranford area. Impact has reduced as the discharge has stopped. We are investigating”. The agency is asking members of the public to report pollution incidents to its hotline on 0800 807060. Meanwhile a Thames Water spokesman is quoted on the Your Local Guardian website saying that, “a pipe that carries treated sewage sludge between our treatment works was damaged by an unknown third party last week”. So, whether it was an accident or deliberate remains to be seen but either way, it’s had a seriously damaging effect on the river.

We’ll add more detail from the Environment Agency and Thames Water on the cause and impact of this incident when it emerges.

* Environment Agency SE on Twitter
* Environment Agency press releases
* LB of Hounslow
* A twickerati 2012 update on the 2011 spill


Filed under Local Issues & News

29 responses to “Pollution in the River Crane… Again

  1. One of our members is a local fisherman with many years experience of the River Crane. With the help of his fishing diaries we have pieced together a long term history of pollution events in the lower Crane and Duke of Northumberland’s River (posted on our web-site under news and events – AGM). It makes for very depressing reading as it identifies 17 major pollution events – resulting in significant fish kills and/or extensive visible pollution -over the 27 year period from 1987 to date.

    We consider that the long term abuse of this local environmental resource is no longer acceptable. We are proposing a public meeting in Twickenham in the New Year to debate, with the main interested parties, the current status of the river, along with how its robustness can be improved and vulnerability reduced. We shall provide more information when a date and venue for this meeting has been agreed.

    Rob Gray
    Chair of FORCE

    • boanerges

      I wonder how many of these events were the “fault” of the Enviromnent Agency eg they cannot be blamed for fly tipping, or illegal discharge from factories, farms etc.
      I do hope this matter is not going to be used for political purposes; I have just had a leaflet from the local LibDems with “Pollution of Crane” as the lead, headline item. Richmond Council has only a very limited amount of control over the Crane, and it strikes me as dishonest to make political capital of this sad series of events

    • michelangelo

      I find it very strange that there two “thumbs down” to Boanerges’ post. As I understand it, none of these polluting events occurred in this Borough. What is the place of this matter in local politics?

    • For clarity, FORCE is a local charity with no political affiliations – obviously though any and every other party and organisation can have their view on the river.

      Further, our objective in proposing a public meeting next year is to air the issue of river pollution with the key interested parties – in my view these would include the Environment Agency, Thames Water and Heathrow Airport Ltd. It would not be our objective to find “fault” with the EA or any other party – more to understand better the current situation and to improve it moving forwards. The five boroughs (including LB Richmond) through which the river flows have an interest, and would be very welcome to take part in this meeting, but are not necessarily key parties in this instance

      Rob Gray
      Chair of FORCE

  2. Rob Gray

    Pollution update from FORCE: we sampled the River Crane last week along with ZSL and were delighted and astonished to find that there were a variety of invertebrates still living in the river bed, along with one stickleback in our sample. This is much better than expected and considerably better than the aftermath to the 2011 pollution.

    Deposits of grey sewage sludge could still be seen on the margins and bed of the river and we would recommend that visitors and their dogs do not venture back in for the time being. However the recent storm will we hope be helping to flush out this material.

    These findings have now been confirmed by other sampling done elsewhere in the river by the Environment Agency. Our latest view is that, whilst the incident seriously impacted the fish life of the river, it may not have hit the invertebrates as hard as October 2011. As a consequence, the recovery (which was only just underway from the October 2011 event), has not been reversed to the extent we first feared.

  3. Environment Agency statement: “ . . Between 26 September and 3 October we believe a low loader lorry delivered a 360 tracked excavator to open land at the Parkway junction with High Street, Cranford, TW5. The excavator was picked up on 2 or 3 October. While the excavator was on site, tipper lorries entered and deposited soils and other material, which was pushed up and shaped into a low embankment around the site by the excavator . . The weight of the vehicles, and possibly excavations carried out, appear to have fractured a sewage sludge main that runs beneath the site and the sludge escaped via the surface water drains to the river causing the pollution.

    We are appealing for information that will help us identify any of the lorries or machinery used . . Both the waste and water pollution offences carried out here were criminal offences. You can report any information through our incident hot line on 0800 80 70 60 or through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”


  4. Ed

    The Environment Agency have launched an appeal to catch the culprits:

  5. Karen Roberts

    Contacted the Environment Agency and made a further report this morning – there is definitely no improvement – in fact the smell of sewage this morning was dreadful…

    • Ed

      Our contact at the EA says:
      “The original source of pollution has very definitely and definitively been stopped. However, polluted water and sediment will hang around for a while where there is slacker water, which may be what’s happening at Hounslow Heath.”
      But if you do suspect that there is some new incident, please do phone it in.

  6. Rob Gray

    We are still gathering news about this latest pollution incident – and most of it is bad. One of the worst things about this event is that it was a sewage sludge that went into the river – which means it is concentrated sewage with much of the water taken out. It is therefore likely to have sunk to the bed of the river and will release from there over time until it has been flushed out. This is evidenced by the continued murky colour of the water almost a week after the initial spill.

    We fear that it will have killed most of the fish, along with the invertebrates upon which they feed, over the 15 kilometers of the Crane and Duke of Northumberland’s River downstream of the outfall at the A30 crossing. Evidence to date includes the deaths of many fish, along with crayfish and mittern crabs. An 8lb pike that lived in the Dukes River (and may well have survived the 2011 pollution event) was also a casualty. We have not yet ventured into the river to see how the invertebrates are faring and we do not recommend anyone (or their dogs) goes into the river for the time being.

    A small flicker of better news is that the marginal ponds that were built next to the river at Pevensey in 2012 appear to have survived – with invertebrates and sticklebacks found there today. Providing more of these marginal habitats may be one way of improving the robustness of the river into the future

    Rob Gray
    Chair of FORCE

  7. Ed

    Time-line of events from the Environment Agency:

    On Thursday 3 October at 11:40 we received a report that the River Crane was running very fast near Twickenham and that it was mucky. The caller reported no particular odour or signs of fish in distress. Just before midday we received a second report that the river at Twickenham was very murky. The caller reported no particular odour issues or any impact on the fish in the river. As the Met Office had predicted heavy rainfall to have moved over the area on Wednesday and into Thursday, initial thoughts were that the increased turbidity was down to surface water runoff.

    At 1:30 pm we received telemetry data that indicated low dissolved oxygen and high ammonium levels. An Environment Officer was on site to investigate the incident from 3:30 pm on Thursday.

    Our Environment Agency Officers, including fisheries staff, were back on site from approximately 6:30 on Friday morning. They were at the scene all day attempting to monitor the impact of the incident on the river and local environment.

    The discharge from the outfall stopped on Friday afternoon and we began to see improvements in the water quality. Over the weekend we continued monitoring the water quality and fisheries officers were on site along affected stretch of river between the outfall and the River Thames.

    We had officers out on site Monday 7 October to further look at impacts of the incident on fish and invertebrates. We are no longer concerned that the river or local environment is at risk of further harm. Water quality on the river is still improving and we will be looking into sediments that may have deposited due to the pollution discharge.

    We are working with our partners to investigate third party damage to a Thames Water asset.

    • Karen Roberts

      Maybe they need to go and have another look.. I’ve just got back from Hounslow Heath (Wed 9/10 10am) it is worse than ever – as black as night.. it was clearer yesterday but definitely worse again today… …”no longer concerned that the local environment is at risk of further harm” think they’ve got their beer goggles on….

    • Ed

      Please call the EA on 0800 80 70 60
      If possible can you get any photos?

    • Karen Roberts

      I did leave a message for the EA on Friday but have not had a response. I took pictures this morning but to be honest it is so black you can’t actually see the density… where would you like me to post them ?

    • DavidH

      Karen, keep on calling them, should not be a message service, its 24/7. 0800 807060, more calls, better response with luck. Well done spotting it today.

    • Ed

      Karen re-iterate to them that what you are seeing is new _today_ Weds 9th (because it seems that as far as they are concerned Friday 4th is over with).
      If you email any photos with the approx.location and date+time taken to info@rivertac.org we will pass them on, thanks.

  8. Thames Water . . said: “A pipe that carries treated sewage sludge between our treatment works was damaged by an unknown third party last week. This damage caused liquid to flow out of the pipe, and was diverted into a surface water drain feeding the River Crane. We are hugely frustrated by this, especially after the work that has been done to restore the Crane following the pollution incident two years ago. We are helping the Environment Agency in its effort to establish who caused this pollution.”


  9. Karen Roberts

    Seems very strange to me that it always happens around this time of the year… the pollution smells of detergent – I walk my dogs there everyday it is heart breaking that his keeps happening – we have had kingfishers, herons, and lots more wildlife this summer – now all gone and nobody seems to care.. the culprits should be made to pay a significant fine and be made to clean up their mess the sludge along the river edge is disgusting…

    OCTOBER 2013

    Statement from the Friends of the River Crane Environment (FORCE http://www.force.org.uk/): ‘ . . [we] were dismayed and appalled to learn of yet another significant pollution incident on the river Crane which appears to have had a profound effect on the health of the river . . It is ironic that the incident unfolded as FORCE was attending a conference with the Environment Agency and Thames Water to celebrate the river and all the work of a number of organisations and communities that has taken place over the last few years. The Environment Agency launched the Catchment Management Plan for the river and most poignantly Thames Water took the opportunity to launch a fund to restore the river as a result of the 2011 disaster.

    In 2011 we said that this must never happen again to the river Crane, a well loved community asset, and yet only 2 years later we appear to have another “significant” incident on our hands. There is obviously something very seriously wrong with the management of the river and its catchment, and FORCE looks to the Environment Agency as the national regulator, to undertake a full investigation of the incident and put measures in place that will ensure that it never happens again.’

  11. The environment agency seem to be quite good at reacting to issues like this – but hopeless at preventing them. There seems to be a lot of old infrastructure, especially around Heathrow – and they should get together with Thames Water and get a full audit done

  12. Anonymous

    Again there are no signs up about this, you have to hear about it from a blog or concerned members of the public putting up signs they have made. I walk my dog down there and he loves the river, god knows what he will catch. Surely this is the Environmental agencies responsibility? When it happened last summer kids were playing in the river because there were no signs.

    • Ed

      I had to warn several kids not to play in the river on Sunday.
      LBRUT are rather blase about the whole thing, much like last time.

  13. The source of this incident was upstream of the A30 which is in the Heathrow area and beyond. Mogden is downstream of that and it’s actually on the Duke of Northumberland’s River, an artificially created waterway, part of which takes water from the Crane.


  14. Mogden sewage treatment works the river crane runs close to it and to crane park from looking at maps.

  15. I had tweets about this earlier and wondered if it was sewage . Am I right in thinking there
    is a sewage works nearby in twickenham I remember passing near something that resembled one not so long ago.