Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Ravensbourne sediment linked to river improvement works

The River Ravensbourne winds its way through Brookmill Park in a semi-natural channel that was built in the late 90s as part of the construction of the DLR extension to Lewisham. 

It's one of my favourite 'secret' cycle and walking routes near Deptford - although a cycle path runs officially through the park and along the Ravensbourne all the way to Lewisham Station, many cyclists bypass it for the sake of speed, taking the route along the road instead.

More often than not a heron can be spotted hunched over the water, or stalking its prey with admirable stealth - sometimes you might even see two or more along this stretch. For those with patience, there are plenty of other bird spots to be had, including little egrets and kingfishers. (If you don't believe me, check out the Friends of Brookmill Park Facebook page, which regularly offers great photos of the birdlife and flora of the park.)

But last year these local residents became concerned that wildlife was being put at risk by regular discharges of sediments into the river, discolouring the water for whole days at a time. These discharges continued over a period of at least a month and more than once were reported to the Environment Agency, with no noticeable change or explanation of the cause.

(All photos of pollution copyright Friends of Brookmill Park)

Suspicion initially fell on the works being carried out at the Lewisham Gateway site. As part of this extensive development of the area around Lewisham station, a number of huge blocks of flats are being built right over the place where the Quaggy River flows into the Ravensbourne. The  Lewisham Gateway development includes creation of a 'park' in between the tower blocks that will be called Confluence Place.

But according to Lewisham Gateway, the work in the river is being carried out with the blessing of the Environment Agency.

They have sent this statement: "Part of our development plan is to open up access to the Ravensbourne and Quaggy, in doing so we have been carrying out work in the river which involves placing gravel into the river bed to enable fish and eels to travel up the catchment. Naturally this work will cause some sediment (sand and gravel) to become displaced. To mitigate this, we placed straw bales directly downstream to catch the sediment. All our work in the river has been overseen by the Environmental (sic) Agency."

It has also emerged that other contractors unrelated to the Lewisham Gateway works have been carrying out investigation works in the car park behind Tesco, which has also caused sediment to flow into the river.

Charity Thames 21 will be leading river clean-up events at Brookmill Park on 21st Jan and 18th Feb (see details on this calendar for anyone who wants to get more involved. And hopefully communication between the various groups working in and around this vital water corridor will improve. 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

So the repeated pollution of the River Ravensbourne hasn’t been pollution after all. Lewisham Gateway’s statement says that their river-bed enhancement work on the Ravensbourne "will cause some sediment (sand and gravel) to become displaced."
That’s OK, then. It looks like pollution but it isn’t really pollution.

However, the Senior Contracts Manager at John Sisk & Sons has indicated that "Two E.A officers were looking into the source of the pollution, which they established as coming from further upstream and not from the Sisk site." So there was some pollution after all, but from upstream - not from the Lewisham Gateway site.

But we are also being told that an un-named (and un-dated) contractor carried out “investigation works in the car park behind Tesco” which has also caused sediment to flow into the river”. I believe this is a red herring, because the powdery muck in Tesco’s car park was only shifted by heavy rains, whilst all major pollution incidents reported to the Environment Agency were on rainless days when river levels were very low.

So the Environment Agency allegedly says that there has been pollution upstream of the Gateway site. And someone would like us to believe there has been pollution downstream of the Gateway site. But the Gateway site says that whatever it does might look like pollution, but it isn’t pollution - and the fish will love it.
On 8th November 2016, I posted a short video on YouTube, entitled: “Is this why water in the Ravensbourne is dirty”. See link below.

I don’t think that this video shows any work that will help any fish or eels to travel up the Ravensbourne catchment. This drilling/jack-hammering of concrete went on hour after hour, and day after day after day, on the Lewisham Gateway site. The resulting concrete dust and debris were pressure-washed into the river. Perhaps Sisk was looking the other way. Or perhaps it was Volker Fitzpatrick, who was still involved on the site when Ravensbourne pollution incidents were first logged at the Environment Agency.

Please keep an eye on our local rivers, before they are poisoned further.