River Crane from Moormead Bridge

FORCE trustees and members have been very saddened to see the effects of a major pollution incident in the River Crane over the last few days. This has been caused by raw sewage flowing into the river by the A4 Bath Road between Saturday night and early Monday morning due to a defective valve on the two metre diameter sewer that services the Heathrow area.

On Sunday there was clear evidence of a major fish kill along the 10 kilometres of the lower River Crane, as well as the 5 kilometre linked channel known as the Duke of Northumberland’s River (DNR). The Environment Agency stated at the time that around 3,000 fish were believed dead. By Monday the lower Crane resembled an open sewer, local people were visibly shocked by its appearance and the smell was forcing people to cover their faces with scarves and handkerchiefs.

The Environment Agency (EA) has described this as a “devastating raw sewage spill” which has effectively “wiped out” the aquatic life in the lower 10 kilometres of the River Crane, considering it to be “the most serious incident we have had on a tributary of the River Thames for several years”.

Thames Water and the EA have pledged to do all they can to assess the damage and clean up the river. However this is likely to take a long time, largely governed by the natural recuperation processes of the river system. It could take weeks to flush out the worst of the pollution and several years to return to its previous ecological richness.

This is a particularly difficult blow for the Crane given all the hard work that has been done by FORCE members, Richmond and Hounslow councils, and many other organisations and individuals over the last few years to improve the river environment and its value for local people. FORCE is determined that this current situation will be overcome and the ongoing improvements to the surrounding green spaces will continue.

Rob Gray, Chair of FORCE said;

“The Trustees and members of FORCE are shocked by this horrendous event and have been overwhelmed by calls and e-mails expressing concern about our well loved river. It is however essential to remember that the River Crane is not destroyed for good and it will recover”.

Recovery will not be a quick fix and Thames Water needs to work with local groups and the EA, and to provide whatever is needed, fully funded over the long term to ensure a complete recovery. We are determined to ensure that as far as possible this situation should never occur again and will urge Thames Water to review and revise their systems so that no similar pollution event can happen."

In the short term it is important for all riverside visitors to keep both themselves and their dogs out of the river until further notice. Despite the warning notices posted in the park by FORCE trustees, there were still dogs bathing in the river this week.

— press release from Friends of the River Crane Environment (FORCE) – 1 November 2011 – www.force.org.uk