River Lee Most Polluted river in the country

River Lee-Sea

The River Lea: eastlondonlines/

The River Lee, which runs through Hackney, has oxygen levels below those that can support life, according to the environmental charity Thames21.

Thames21 carry out fortnightly monitoring with University College London, which reveals that oxygen levels regularly fall below levels necessary for healthy, breeding fish populations.

The dissolved oxygen per litre of water in the river south of Homerton Road is just 2.11mg which is less than the  5 mg necessary to support fish life.

“This is a direct result of ongoing sewage and chemical pollution from sewage works overflows, surface run off and household mis-connections,” said Theo Thomas, canal programme manager at Thames21.

Ten per cent of north Hackney homes have mis-connected drainage pipes, which lead to raw waste flowing into the Lee. “We are asking for people to love their River Lee and to get involved in efforts to reduce this pollution,” said Thomas.

Conrad O’Duffy, pictured, lives on a barge and has been moored on the River Lee, “on and off”, for the last three years. He says that the water looks cleaner than he remembers it and that British Waterways are doing their best to keep it clean but that: ” builders taking short-cuts with plumbing cause the problems.”

River Lee, Conrad O'Duffy

Conrad O'Duffy on the River Lee:eastlondonlines

British Waterways have carried out dredging to reduce problems and are undertaking ongoing maintenance to remove litter and invasive plants. Leela O’Dea, ecologist at British Waterways said “Poor water quality on the Lee, caused by effluent discharge into the river, is not a new problem.”

A spokeswoman for Thames Water, which is responsible for removing and treating sewage, said there are plans underway to build tunnels that will help alleviate the problem of the River Lee’s pollution levels: “The Lee Tunnel is the first of two tunnels, which will collectively capture an average of 39 million tonnes a year of sewage from London’s 35 most polluting combined sewer overflows.”

The Lee Tunnel will tackle discharges from the largest overflow at Abbey Mills in Stratford, which accounts for 40 per cent of the total discharge. “This project marks a major milestone to create a cleaner, healthier River Thames and River Lee by preventing sewer discharges from Victorian sewers.” She said

Construction work is under way, and Thames Water is due to start tunnelling early next year.

To get involved in the Love the Lee campaign, go to www.thames21.org.uk/LovetheLee or email


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