More than 150 monitoring tubes were put up by campaigners from Don't Dump on Deptford's Heart and No to Silvertown Tunnel across south east London to measure the concentration of Nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant directly linked to vehicle emissions; only 16 of these tubes showed pollution levels below those permitted by the EU - and some of the worst pollution spots had levels nearly three times higher!
The monitoring follows on from a similar exercise carried out by No to Silvertown Tunnel which I wrote about last year, but this time three times as many pollution tubes were installed over a much wider area. The Silvertown Tunnel campaigners teamed up with local campaigners in Deptford who are protesting against Thames Water's plans to sink a shaft for its 'super sewer' project in the middle of one of the few bits of green space in Deptford.
With funding from various sources - including individual donations from some local residents - they were able to pay for the pollution tubes supplied by the Network for Clean Air, who advise on the process for installation and removal of the tubes, and get them processed by an official lab to ensure they are done in accordance with DEFRA guidelines. Teams of volunteers went out and put the tubes up on lamp posts where they remained for a month, before being taken down and sent away for analysis.
The results for the tubes installed by the Deptford team can be seen in detail on this map but you can get a rough idea of the overall pollution levels on this map; only orange and green blobs are below the recommended level of 40 microgramme per cubic metre set by the EU. Red blobs represent anything between 40 and 60 microgrammes per cubic metre, and black is anything over 60 (and potentially up to 110!).
This map plots the extremely high levels found along the main roads, but perhaps more surprisingly, it shows that levels along Deptford High Street are also worryingly high. Considering the fact that the street is used as a rat run in the morning and evening rush-hours, I'm not quite so surprised, but all the same it gives great cause for concern.
Deptford Church Street also has several black blobs, and it is these measurements in particular - as well as those on Creekside - that local campaigners fear will be exacerbated by the congestion caused by construction traffic on the super sewer, as well as traffic from major developments such as Faircharm and Convoys Wharf. Thames Water's proposal to restrict traffic on Deptford Church Street to single lanes each direction during the construction of the shaft has even greater implications.
The measurements from tubes installed by Silvertown Tunnel campaigners can be seen in detail on this map, but the screen shot above gives a good indication of similarly high levels across the area.
The two campaign websites go into much more detail about the implications of these results, but even without the need to gather hard evidence to argue the case against these two tunnel projects, the fact is that air pollution caused by vehicles is way above acceptable levels in most parts of south east London, even in our high streets, outside schools, houses and other public amenities. Everywhere you go in this part of the capital puts you at risk of harm from nitrogen dioxide and given the levels that are being measured, it seems inevitable that other pollutants are also present in high concentrations. Lewisham council does monitor air quality, but only at four sites and the last time it published results from diffusion tubes like the ones that were used in this survey, was 2012.
Surely it's time that they put a bit more effort into it, especially given these results? Having reliable, frequently-updated information like this is going to be fundamental to any argument against, for example, developers at Convoys Wharf pitching to send all their construction lorries along local roads?