I walked across Albany Park towards the Turkey Brook wary of what I might find. I reached the northern edge of the Park and looked down to see a sick river flowing past.
Turkey Brook was covered with thousands of frothy bubbles, symptoms of the waste water from countless homes which contaminates the river.
Turkey Brook is no different from all rivers in North and East London: it flows to the Lea and is in poor condition.
What’s striking about Turkey Brook is it’s so clear that as soon as it meets people its health is ravaged. For much of its course the Brook flows through countryside, with only the last part of the journey past homes. From that point on the pollution escalates.
I met Gina Needs, chairperson of Friends of Albany Park. Gina became a Love the Lea water quality tester in February and now regularly checks the health of Turkey Brook.
In recent weeks the evidence that pollution is entering the river has been clear.
Within a few minutes of arriving we had spotted homes that had connected pipes from bathrooms to the drainpipe which leads straight to the river.
The mouths of other pipes had stained the walls grey. A large storm water pipe was clogged with trash.
About 10% of homes have connected wastewater pipes to the river. There is on-going work to find them and sort them out. It’s hard to tell how much success this has, or whether as soon as one misconnection is reconnected, another washing machine, dishwasher, shower or toilet is plumbed into Turkey Brook somewhere else. Too few people know they risk polluting the river if they join the wrong pipes.
What’s been missing is the Love the Lea campaign, and people like Gina armed with testing kits. Without information no one can make an informed choice and take action. This is changing.