Editor’s comment: Could oil spill in River Lea have been better contained?

Oil on a piece of paper that has been dipped in the River Lea at Homerton Bridge. Picture: Rose Keye

Oil on a piece of paper that has been dipped in the River Lea at Homerton Bridge. Picture: Rose Keyes - Credit: Archant

Two oil spills on Hackney’s biggest river in as many months is two too many.

Oil (and rubbish) on the River Lea at Homerton Bridge. Picture: Rose Keyes

Oil (and rubbish) on the River Lea at Homerton Bridge. Picture: Rose Keyes - Credit: Archant

And yet we still don’t know the source of the slick that is stopping boats, contaminating wildlife, and getting onto people’s skin and into their lungs.

Whether it’s the result of an accident or illegal dumping, this pollution of our waterways is unacceptable.

But so is the Environment Agency’s failure to isolate the spread, which has resulted in a stretch of water the entire length of Hackney being placed in lockdown.

From my own conversations with boaters, it doesn’t seem like either the EA or the Canal and River Trust has been adequately communicating with them. Notices have been posted online and on social media but it has been left to the boaters themselves to spread the word.

Oil on the River Lea at Homerton Bridge. Picture: Rose Keyes

Oil on the River Lea at Homerton Bridge. Picture: Rose Keyes - Credit: Archant


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One even told me the EA had suggested asking other boaters for advice on how to clean the oil off her vessel, even though doing it incorrectly can accelerate the spread.

There must be penalties for dumping or spilling toxic waste into public water, or it will keep happening. I was unimpressed to learn a major slick had happened in the same place over Christmas with no answers – or consequences for the culprit.

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Whether there’s any link between the two cases is a matter for the Environment Agency, but so far I’m not enormously confident they’ve made much headway. It is vital that the source of the spillage is found or it will probably happen again.

Thank goodness for The Swan Sanctuary, who have now saved 55 contaminated birds from Hackney’s biggest river in just a few weeks. They rely on donations and volunteers and have asked me to share their website. So here it is: theswansanctuary.org.uk.

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