Environment Agency: River Lea no longer “written off”

Clean-up of “disgusting” river underway but will take years

A CLEAN-UP is underway in the River Lea by Environment Agency experts but there is still more to be done, the agency has said.

Our Rivers, a campaign group backed by the RSPB, WWF-UK, the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association, criticised the agency yesterday after the Lea was voted fourth worst river in England and Wales in an online poll.

Residents said the Hackney stretch of the river was “foul”, “disgusting” and “third world standard”.

Canal boat owner David Akinsanya, 45, said seeing used tampons and raw sewage floating past his boat moored at the Springfield Marina near Spring Hill, Clapton made his skin crawl.

Ralph Underhill, from Our Rivers, said: “We know what pressures our rivers are facing, but the Environment Agency needs to properly investigate the sources of these problems and what can be done to put them right.”

The Environment Agency said work was being done but it was a slow process.

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A spokeswoman said: “During its history, the Lower Lea catchment was written off as an area that would be too difficult to clean up. But in recent years the river was identified as an area that can and should be cleaned up. We and our partners have started the clean up, which is likely to take many years.”

She said the agency had already removed around 30,000 tonnes of oxygen depleting sediment, including three tonnes of tyres, three cars, 40 motorbikes and 120 shopping trolleys from the Lower Lea as a whole.

In March this year the agency teamed up with British Waterways to install 450m metres of wildlife friendly reed bed fringe across four locations along the Lower River Lee Navigation in Hackney.

These beds are important as fish need somewhere to hide from the cormorants which, as larger seabirds, eat a lot of fish.

Anglers using the river often complain that there are hardly any fish left in the Lea.

For more information about the campaign visit www.ourrivers.org.uk.