Thames21 will use the Defra funding to reduce pollution in the Salmons Brook, a tributary of the River Lea, which is one of the most polluted rivers in the UK.

Every time it rains polluted water, contaminated by oil from roads and chemicals such as paint, is washed into the brook.

Building on the Love the Lea campaign, Thames21 will mimic nature to reduce pollution implementing a range of trapping systems such as reed beds and gravel trenches to intercept storm water before it can poison the river.

The project will span three years and see the installation of six bio-retention systems which will be maintained and managed by local people.

Chief executive of Thames21 Debbie Leach said community involvement would be crucial to the project’s success.

“Local people know their river and it’s only by harnessing that knowledge that the project will be a success. We need to find out where the pollution is coming from, and where we can build the bio-retention systems so that the water is cleaned before it flows into the Salmons Brook,” she said.

Members of the local community will help identify pollution sources, test the water quality and accurately measure the levels of contamination. It is hoped this ‘citizen science’ will establish data needed to understand how to reduce the pollution of urban rivers.

Scientific data will also be collected during the project by the University College London with a view to enable the wider uptake of sustainable solutions in the UK.

Thames21 senior programme manager Theo Thomas said: “The Salmons Brook Healthy River Challenge gives us a chance to discover how the pollution we create affects our rivers and how to deal with it. While we all need to stop causing the pollution in the first place, we hope these natural systems can reduce the damage caused to Salmons Brook and help the river’s recovery.”

Conor McGlone

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