Britain’s largest water company has been fined £125,000 ($180,000), after polluting London’s River Wandle to such an extent that it wiped out twenty years of painstaking conservation work in a single day.
The shocking incident occurred in 2007, when Chlorine escaped from a Thames Water sewage treatment works, killing most of the fish along a 3 mile stretch of one of the city’s most iconic urban rivers. Local residents tried to save some of the distressed fish by transferring them from the river into buckets of clean water, but they were too late. One man rescued a large number of eels, but found they were bleeding from the gills and they all later died.
In past years, the Wandle has been subjected to extreme pollution, resulting in it being officially declared a sewer in the 1960s. However, since the late 80s it has become a vibrant ecosystem, largely due to better environmental regulation, a fish stocking programme and massive local enthusiasm for the river, which has resulted in a huge boost in water quality.
Conservationists say it could take as many as 10 years for the river to fully recover and the fish stocks to return to the same levels witnessed before the incident.
Since the pollution, Thames Water has pledged £500,000 over five years to support local environmental improvements and has paid compensation to local angling clubs of around £10,000. Many might feel that this amounts to a case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Image Credit – Jan Tik via flickr on a Creative Commons License