HACKNEY Mayor Philip Glanville has written to Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, asking for the Government to work with Hackney Council and othe agencies to better protect the River Lea and local wildlife from further environmental damage.

He  and his two Cabinet colleagues Cllr Mete Coban, lead for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm, and Cllr Chris Kennedy, Cabinet Member for Health, have told the Government: ” The levels of pollution both visible in the form of plastic, algae blooms, dead wildlife and detritus as well as more invisible pollutants continue to represent a real risk to human and wildlife health.

“It feels these issues have gone on far too long and that the high levels of contamination are accepted here, but would not be tolerated anywhere else.

“Both ourselves and the residents and visitors who love the Lea are committed to seeing this change, but that requires concerted partnership action from the Environment Agency and other partners.”

They emphasise in a letter to the Environment Agency: “We continue to be concerned about this issue and have been approached by a number of active and worried residents about the amount of plastic and other pollutants in the River Lea and the detrimental impact that this is having for local wildlife.

“We would be very grateful if you could provide an update on the work that the Environmental Agency is undertaking to proactively address pollutants being dumped into the River Lea and its tributaries, and improve water quality across its length.

“As you will be aware, the Lea is one of the most polluted Rivers in Britain with very poor water quality and destruction of habitat for wildlife. The latest available data from 2019 provided the Lea with a damning assessment of water quality, with an overall classification of Bad, failing on chemical standards and ecological health.

“The Environment Agency’s own figures, published last week, show that Thames Water discharged sewage into rivers in its area 18,443 times in 2020.

“Protecting our local environment is a priority for us as a Council, and we are committed to safeguarding our beautiful waterways, which play such an important role in promoting biodiversity.

“As you will be aware from the numerous clean-up operations that you have run alongside other partners, such as the Canal and River Trust’s #plasticschallenge, Hackney Council and our residents are passionate about keeping our waterways free from all forms of pollutants.”

They go on to say that River Lea continues to provide a vital blue / green corridor for nature and public amenity, as well as an increasingly formal and informal leisure resource and would welcome a conversation with the Environment Agency ‘to discuss how we as a Council can work, alongside the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, the Canal and River Trust and the Environment Agency to better protect the River Lea and local wildlife from further environmental damage’.

[Photos of the River Lea near Oxbow Island: Ian Rathbone]

7 April 2021

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