Salmons Brook – Healthy River Challenge

Polluted rivers of East London given a boost 

Thames21 has been awarded £341,000 to create systems that mimic nature to treat the polluted water that washes into the Salmons Brook every time it rains.

The Salmons Brook is a tributary of the River Lea, which starts in the north west of the London Borough of Enfield, and is one of the most polluted rivers in the UK. It suffers from contamination from oily water washed off roads, silt and muck that goes down the drains, and chemicals like paints.

The Defra-funded project will build on the Love the Lea campaign, and work with volunteers to actively implement a range of filtering and trapping systems such as reed beds and gravel trenches to intercept storm water before it can poison the river.

Thames21 Senior Programme Manager and driver of the project, Theo Thomas said: “The Salmons Brook Healthy River Challenge gives us a chance to discover how the pollution we create affects our rivers and how to deal with it. While we all need to stop causing the pollution in the first place, we hope these natural systems can reduce the damage caused to Salmons Brook and help the river’s recovery.”

The Salmons Brook is also beset with waste water from people’s homes going down the wrong pipes and into the environment. Dirty water from washing machines, dishwashers, toilets and bathrooms should go into the sewers, instead some waste pipes have been misconnected to drain pipes that take rainwater to the river.

Chief executive of Thames21 Debbie Leach said community involvement would be key to the project’s success: “Local people know their river and it’s only by harnessing that knowledge that the project will be a success. We need to find out where the pollution is coming from, and where we can build the bio-retention systems so that the water is cleaned before it flows into the Salmons Brook.”

Local people will work to identify pollution sources, test water quality and to accurately measure successful pollution prevention. Citizen science will play a big part in monitoring the health of the Salmons Brook, and will help establish the data needed to understand how diffuse urban pollution damages local rivers, and the best ways of reducing it. Scientific data will also be collated during the project in collaboration with University College London to enable wider uptake of sustainable solutions in UK.

This three year project will install six bio-retention systems with the key support of local people, who will continue to maintain and manage these features into the future.

Environment Agency South East regional director Howard Davidson said: ‘Healthy rivers are essential for our quality of life and it is great to see Thames 21 taking on this challenge on Salmons Brook. Tackling the legacy of pollution will require community support and understanding and this project will help build a better future for your local river.’

Enfield Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr Chris Bond, said: “This is a fantastic project that will breathe life into Salmon’s Brook, improve the water quality and give fish and other river borne life a welcome boost. It’s important we work to protect our environment so future generations can benefit from and enjoy it so I’m delighted we can support this superb initiative.”

The Salmons Brook Health River Challenge will be funded by Defra’s Catchment Restoration Fund, and is being run in co-operation with London Borough of Enfield and the Environment Agency.

To get involved, or for further information contact Theo Thomas 012 828

Media enquires: Emily Braham: 07827 352 675

Notes to Editors:

  • Thames21 is an environmental charity (registered number 1103997) working with communities to improve London’s rivers and canals. We work with over 9000 volunteers each year.
  • Defra’s Catchment Restoration Fund is part of a £92 million commitment to clearing up England’s rivers and lakes
  • Thames21’s Love the Lea campaign highlights the sources of pollution; misconnected pipes from people’s homes, run off from roads, overflows from sewage works, pollution from commercial properties and chemicals poured down street drains.
  • Thames21 is supported by, and works closely with, the Port of London Authority, Thames Water, Environment Agency, Corporation of London, Keep Britain Tidy and British Waterways.
  • Follow Thames21’s updates on Twitter and Love the Lea on Facebook.