River Lea voted fourth worst river

Street pollution and dumping blights otherwise beautiful river

THE “very dirty, very sad” River Lea has been voted the fourth worst river in England and Wales - because of pollution from our streets.

The Our Rivers campaign, backed by the RSPB, WWF-UK, the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association, found the river, which runs from the edge of Luton and Stratford, was not valued and instead used as a dumping ground for everything from motorbikes to shopping trolleys, in an online survey run since August.

One voter said: “Parts of the River Lea are beautiful, but in Hackney a combination of neglect, rubbish and pollution have taken their toll. This is saddening on any river, but to me it seems sadder still because the Hackney stretch of the Lea provides a window onto wildlife and the countryside in central London - something rare that should be treasured.”

Cormorants – a larger sea bird - have also devastated the fish stocks, according to anglers.

One commented in the survey: “It’s just not looked after, not valued, and things that don’t belong there just get thrown in, from motorbikes to shopping trolleys. There used to be swans on it, but they have all been eaten now. It’s very dirty. It’s very sad.”

The campaign also found that banks were eroding and public access was “often poor.”

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David Akinsanya, 45, has kept a canal boat at Springfield Marina near Spring Hill, Clapton for five years, said: “I see tampons and used condoms floating by on a regular basis. It’s absolutely disgusting. This part of the river is used so much by the Lea River Rowing Club and by children with learning difficulties. It makes my skin crawl.”

Mr Akinsanya, a broadcaster, found five times the legal limit of faecal matter in the water when he sent it for scientific testing for a film he made for BBC1’s Inside Out programme two years ago.

Rowing coach from the rowing club, Ben Cox, 37, of Arbutus Street, agreed, saying: “We’re a charity and we’re trying to persuade kids to get involved in sport but you can’t persuade them to paddle in sewage. It’s absolutely foul, it’s third world standard.”

A report out earlier this month from the Environment Agency showed that 72 per cent of rivers in England and Wales are now failing European targets. Only 26 per cent of rivers in England and Wales are assessed as ‘good’, 56 per cent are ‘moderate’, 14 per cent are ‘poor’ and two per cent are ‘bad’. The European Water Framework Directive has set a target for all rivers to be ‘good’ or better by 2015.