In late October 2011, when the major pollution occurred in the Crane, I posted the following to the St Margarets site.

“Just in case my comment didn’t get through to this subject - we alerted NRA on 9th Oct that the river was deep black & stank. We saw a crab trying to climb out near the Hill View Rd bridge. NRA phoned next day for details. Are they saying that there were 2 leaks?”

Someone called Ed posted a note telling me very firmly that it was a separate incident. I remained, and remain, unconvinced and sent a letter to the R&TT which published it. Dr Cable sent a copy to the Environment Agency who replied to him with, amongst others, the following statements:-

  • “… his(i.e. my) partner reported that the fish… were not in distress”
  • “We did not attend the incident on this occasion as the information provided by Mr Alexander and his partner suggested that the problem was not severe “
  • “We have access to the monitoring system run by The British Airport Authority (which) records the water quality of the River Crane. We checked the data … for.. 7 to 9 October (and) there was no indication (of) pollution in that location”
  • “The data does not appear to indicate a link between the problems 7 and 9 October with the major incident on the 29 October 2011”

The local Environment Agency officer ( Mr John Skipper ) kindly offered to meet me and give news on the clean-up operation. He told me that Thames Water is taking the operation very seriously and that there is a long term strategy for remediation under the Agency’s watchful eye. The lack of rain is not helping the natural return of life to the river. In the areas where there are engineered banks time and water will heal the river but more work will be needed where there are earth banks like in Crane Park.

Mr Skipper was optimistic that, given rainfall, rivers repair themselves quite quickly. Thames Water also plan a substantial restocking of fish.

The officer, Mr Skipper, was keen to stress that with a large area covered by relatively few inspectors, they are keen that the public should report any incidents.

He gave me his card. His details are:-

John Skipper Apollo Court, 2,Bishops Square Business Park St Albans Road West Hatfield AL10 9EX 01707 632794 01707 632499(Fax)

I must say that, with the history of the public pronouncements by Thames Water and British Airports Authority, I remain cynically unconvinced. Mr Skipper could not comment; I am fairly certain that the penstock valve, which had apparently not been serviced for many years, was leaking for some time un-noticed. We all need to keep our eyes open.

– Stephen Alexander and his partner/wife of 44 years, Penny.