Coliform bacteria found in 98pc of Thames river samples during ‘Big Count’ project

PUBLISHED: 14:21 27 February 2015 | UPDATED: 14:21 27 February 2015

Volunteers checking polluted Thames water [pictures: Matthew Joseph]

Volunteers checking polluted Thames water [pictures: Matthew Joseph]

Matthew Joseph

Volunteers got stuck in the mud at this year’s annual Big Count to check up on the health of the Thames.

Checking at low tide, in the mud, how bad Thames pollution has becomeChecking at low tide, in the mud, how bad Thames pollution has become

They joined Thames 21 charity’s annual Big Count project to monitor the sewage and all the flotsam and jetsam that pollutes the river and found bacteria in virtually every sample collected.

Much of London’s pollution ends up in the tidal flow and gets caught at sharp river bends like the Isle of Dogs—which regularly has to be cleared up to keep the Thames clean and flowing smoothly.

So the charity set up Thames River Watch a year ago to encourage the public to help collect information about the river by measuring water quality, types of litter and the spread of invasive non-native species.

Events were held along the foreshore in Limehouse and the Isle of Dogs last week, as well as in other parts of London, to mark the first anniversary of the Big Count.

“Our volunteers collected data on 308 days during the first year,” Thames River Watch co-ordinator Alice Hall explained. “This is an important step towards better understanding the health of the river and the challenges the public faces.”

Coliform bacteria, which can enter the water after a sewage discharge, were found in a startling 98 per cent of all samples collected in the last 12 months.

Phil Stride, Head of London’s 17-mile Thames Tideway Tunnel ‘super sewer’ project—under construction from Barnes to the Isle of Dogs to prevent sewage getting into the river—said: “It’s a horrible statistic. It often surprises me how many people are unaware of the scale of sewage pollution, with 39 million tonnes of sewage pouring into the Thames each year.”

The Big Count is also helping establish how litter ends up in the river before making its way to the sea and evaluating the impact of foreshore clean-ups led by communities along the tidal Thames including Limehouse and the Isle of Dogs.

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