The Environment Agency is helping Wandle Trust volunteers to spot pollution alongside the River Wandle in South London by creating a partnership to care for the river.
The Environment Agency will help to train Wandle Trust staff and volunteers so that they are able to attend minor incidents on the River Wandle, assess the severity and report them to the Environment Agency, who will then react to the incident accordingly. The collaborative project will be led by the Wandle Trust, with the objective of enabling the Wandle Carshalton arm to reach Good Ecological Potential by 2015, and make significant progress towards moving other parts of the catchment to good status.
Pollution incidents that affect water quality are a contributory factor in holding the Wandle back from achieving Good Ecological Potential under the Water Framework Directive. Depending on circumstances, the Environment Agency is not always able to respond to lower impact pollution incidents.
When notified by the Environment Agency, the Wandle Trust volunteers will provide a first line of response to assess the situation and report back to the Environment Agency. It is hoped that this newly established partnership will enable local Wandle Trust volunteers to keep an eye on the river, facilitating a more efficient response to all pollution incidents.
The additional information gathered by the Wandle Trust will be used to update the Environment Agency’s incident management system and enhance understanding of the River Wandle, including details of river pollution trends, and gaining knowledge of where habitat improvements are needed.
The Wandle Trust is a long standing partner of the Environment Agency, with a record of facilitating community involvement while delivering enhancement schemes in project delivery, monitoring and river planning. In 2011 the Wandle Trust undertook a project involving over 100 local volunteers, delivering a range of habitat improvement works on a 2 km stretch of river. Other projects have included weir notching and habitat creation at Three Arch Bridge, weir removal and rock ramp installation in Ravensbury Park side channel and eel pass installation at Merton Abbey Mills and Ravensbury Park. The work of the Wandle Trust was instrumental in the River Wandle recently being identified as one of England’s most improved waterways.
The newly established partnership is one phase of the Wandle Trust Delivery Plan, which will integrate the delivery of habitat and fish passage projects with measures to reduce and monitor diffuse pollution, and will increase confidence that the habitat measures will be successful and that deterioration will not occur.
The volunteer based scheme will be managed by professional Wandle Trust staff, and is being run as a pilot on the Wandle. If successful, the scheme may be rolled out across the South East and nationally.
Environment Agency’s Chairman Lord Chris Smith said: “Working with community groups is crucial in ensuring the vitality of our rivers and waterways, and the Wandle Trust is a superb example of residents taking an active interest in the health of their local environment.
“Rivers in England and Wales are the healthiest they have been for 20 years, but it is important that we do more to continue this improvement and meet stringent new EU standards. I’m confident that our work with the Wandle Trust will enable us all to do just that.”
Wandle Trust Chairman Theo Pike said: “The Wandle Trust’s volunteers have been supporting the Environment Agency’s work on the Wandle for many years, so we’re delighted to announce this new opportunity to improve communication with the statutory authorities as the community’s eyes and ears on the river. Our network of volunteers will be trained to assess the seriousness of pollution incidents, and help us to identify any pollution blackspots or other trends. As one of a suite of partnership projects with the Environment Agency, we also hope it will help us to substantially reduce diffuse pollution on the Wandle and help the river meet its Water Framework Directive targets.”
Pollution incidents should still be reported to the Environment Agency’s incident hotline on 0800 807060.