On Friday 25th March a vast quantity of black oil was spilled in the East Pyl Brook in Morden which flows into Beverley Brook. Thames Water classed the incident as a Category 1 incident, suspecting third party involvement. As of date, this is an ongoing incident and a possible criminal case.
The Environment Agency and Thames Water attended the scene, however, with the nature of rivers, the oil has now spread covering an area around 14km (8.7mi) long. The watercourses affected are the Pyl Brook, Beverley Brook and the River Thames.
When oil and water meet, oil ‘rafts’ form which can soak into the feathers and fur of animals. This can prevent birds from flying and cause animals to lose buoyancy leading to drowning. It also causes hypothermia and changes the smell of young which may cause them to become lost or abandoned. If ingested, the oil can poison wildlife or even alter the natural hormones these animals produce. The oil can also kill vegetation, needed to sustain herbivores and pollinating invertebrates. The vapours that the hydrocarbons release can be toxic, damaging even humans. These rafts, as well as an iridescent sheen and the smell of hydrocarbons afflicted the affected area, although they are now starting to dissipate. However, what further oily horrors will the next rain wash downstream?
As such, it is important to remember to stay out of the water and, for the time being, keep your dogs out of the water!
Both the Environment Agency and Thames Water have deployed oil-absorbent booms and pads at numerous locations along the Pyl and the Beverley and seem to be making good progress in tackling this incident.
To our knowledge, there has currently been minor damage to wildlife, with the RSPCA needing to rescue a handful of birds, including a heron, affected by the oil. It is thought that most bottom and mid-water column dwelling species should be unaffected.
Call the Environment Agency’s incident report line immediately on 0800 80 70 60 if you see any distressed, dying, dead, or oily fish, birds, mammals, or amphibians.
If you see any collections of oil, do not touch it! Call the Environment Agency’s incident report line immediately on 0800 80 70 60.
Tarun Ingvorsen, Project Manager, Friends of Barnes Common
Photo credit: Friends of Richmond Park