Fungal blooms on the River Crane may be caused by pollution from Heathrow outfall

Local voluntary group, the Friends of the River Crane Environment (FORCE – or Citizen Crane) keep an eye on the river Crane, which flows past Heathrow. They monitor the water quality, oxygen levels and invertebrate numbers. It appears there is a current problem with  blooms of pale grey brown sewage fungus on the river bed found immediately downstream of the Heathrow outfall.  In the past there have been numerous incidents of water pollution caused by the use of glycol to de-ice planes. This then gets in to water balancing reservoir, and hence into the River Crane. Algal blooms are formed, due to the pollution, reducing the water’s oxygen and thus harming, or killing, creatures in the river. Heathrow is thought to have recently installed a £17 million water treatment system, and it had been hoped this would end the pollution incidents caused by glycol. However, it does not yet appear to be working as expected. FORCE will continue to monitor the situation closely and will also request a statement from Heathrow.
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Fungal blooms on the River Crane may be caused by pollution from Heathrow outfall

18.2.2019 (Facebook page of Friends of the River Crane Environment)

Reports from our Citizen Crane teams and the general public indicate that the fungal blooms we saw in the river over the last two winters have re-appeared during the last few days. These are manifesting as blooms of pale grey brown sewage fungus on the river bed (see close up photo from Donkey Wood from last Saturday) found immediately downstream of the Heathrow outfall and evolving to a darker brown silt cover to the river bed in Crane Park further downstream.

The water colour is reported as being a distinctive grey-green colour throughout much of the river to the Thames at Isleworth and a foam is developing downstream of higher energy sections. Our volunteers also report reduced invertebrate numbers and diversity from their weekend kick sampling surveys.

Following a number of severe fungal blooms in previous years Heathrow Airport has recently invested heavily in a new treatment system to deal with the glycol it uses to de-ice the aircraft and runways. These recent observations suggest the system is not yet working as expected. We shall continue to monitor the situation closely and will also request a statement from Heathrow.

Reports from our Citizen Crane teams and the general public indicate that the fungal blooms we saw in the river over the…

Posted by Friends of the River Crane Environment on Monday, 18 February 2019

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Heathrow’s report on water pollution

http://www.cranevalley.org.uk/documents/Improvements_to_Heathrow_Airport_Water_Discharges_from_Eastern_Balancing_Reservoir-Stakeholder_document.pdf

(one of those reports with no date, no author details, no address or contact details ….)

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See earlier:

Pollution Incident on River Crane in March 2018

9th March 2018
Friends of the River Crane Environment (FORCE) website

Citizen Crane volunteers at the three downstream sites in the river (Donkey Wood, Crane Park Island and Mill Road) have reported a pollution event – with low numbers of invertebrates in both January and February alongside extensive fungal blooms. The problem is particularly severe at Donkey Wood (see photo of the bloom from 5th March 2018) and appears to be linked to the outfall from Heathrow’s Eastern Balancing Reservoir.

The findings are being investigated by the Environment Agency as well as Heathrow. Historically, periods of cold weather have been followed by fungal blooms and linked to the use of glycol as a de-icer at the airport. Given the Citizen Crane data precede the recent severe cold weather last week then this problem may well intensify in the coming days and weeks. Our next survey will be on the weekend of 17th March.

FORCE understand the growth causes harm to invertebrates by smothering the river gravels and depriving them of oxygen. It should not be a risk to human health – although of course anyone going into the river should always carefully wash their hands before eating or drinking.

FORCE are in regular contact with Heathrow and the EA and will report any further information we receive. It is suggested that anyone with dogs looks at the water first and keep them out if there is a lot of fungus. The amount will vary with time and location but could be present anywhere downstream of Donkey Wood to the Thames. It should not harm the dog but could be a major job to clean out of their fur.

Judging from the experience of previous years the fungal growths will slowly dissipate over the next few months – and the river would benefit from heavy rainfall and high flushing flows.

Heathrow has responded to this long standing problem with interim improvements to the handling system at the Eastern Balancing Reservoir from this year and a new £17m treatment system is planned to be open by next winter. Hopefully this will be the last winter with glycol related pollution at this scale.

FORCE statement 9 March 2018
https://www.force.org.uk/news/pollution-incident-on-river-cr/

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See earlier:

 

Heathrow coach company fined £21,000 + for dumping toilet waste into River Crane

The Environment Agency (EA) has revealed that a Heathrow coach company has been fined for dumping toxic waste in the River Crane. Symphony Chauffeurs Ltd, based near Heathrow Airport, broke environmental law when staff poured waste into sewers, instead of taking the waste to an approved site for disposal.  The company has been fined and charged with allowing poisonous, noxious or polluting matter into the River Crane, between May 2015 and February 2016, and failing to provide the EA with documents relating to their activities. Responding to the news the Chair of Stop Heathrow Expansion (SHE) Jackie Clark-Basten, said: “We are glad about the outcome of this investigation by the Environment Agency.  Heathrow have a poor record of polluting the local area with hazardous substances (eg. de-icers like ethylene glycol, as well as cleaning fluids, paint, and kerosene) and yet in the Government’s draft National Policy Statement, they admit the likely detriment to local water quality with expansion, but also admit no work has been undertaken on this issue and it will only be undertaken at a much later stage in the process. The wider question that needs to now be asked is can we really afford to take the chance of further contamination of local water?”    

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2017/12/heathrow-coach-company-fined-21000-for-dumping-toilet-waste-into-river-crane/

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See earlier:

 

Heathrow Airport fined for causing death of hundreds of fish

By Dan Coombs

Uxbridge Gazette

17.5.2010

Heathrow Airport has been fined £13,000 for causing the death of hundreds of fish in a nearby lake.

The Airport last week pleaded guilty to discharging pollutants into the Clockhouse
Lane Pits lake system near Bedfont in April 2008.

This caused oxygen to plummet, killing numerous stickleback, perch and tench,
and thousands more fish had to be relocated to an adjacent lake.

The airport uses a tunnel system allowing it to discharge surface water runoff
into the lake, but on this occasion the maximum lawful limits of pollutants was
exceeded.

The discharge contained glycol, a common ingredient of de-icing fluids, applied
to aeroplanes and runways during periods of cold weather at Heathrow, and it was
this which caused the death of the fish in the lake.

A spokesperson for the Environmental Agency described the effects on the fish
population as having a ‘devastating impact’ and caused a significant loss of revenue
for recreational companies working in and around the lake.

The airport paid £195,000 in compensation to the Princes Ski Club, who lease
the lake, for their loss of business, as it was forced to close for a week as
the clean-up took place.

The airport was also asked to pay £15,000 in court costs.


 

29.9.2010   (Water Briefing)       link

 

Company fined £40K for Heathrow groundwater pollution

A London company responsible for supplying jet fuel at Heathrow Airport was fined

£40,000 last week and ordered to pay the Environment Agency in excess of £14,000
for its costs, after severely polluting groundwater beneath the airport, with
at least 139,000 litres of Jet A-1 aviation fuel.

Heathrow Hydrant Operating Company Limited (HHOpCo), of 8 York Road, London SE1

had pleaded guilty at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court in June this year to causing
polluting matter to enter the Taplow Gravels groundwater, contrary to section
85 (1) and (6) of the Water Resources Act 1991. The case had been committed to
Isleworth Crown Court for sentence.

The court heard that on 29 November 2007 HHOpCo informed the Environment Agency

of a leak in the fuel supply pipeline to aircraft stands at Heathrow’s Terminal
One building. The leak was discovered by HHOpCo nine days earlier following an
unrelated report from BAA about a report of jet fuel odour in a nearby access
tunnel. Without this unrelated report, it is not known how long the leak would
have continued to go undetected for. HHOpCo conducted an overnight pressure test
on the hydrant system and confirmed the leak, but failed to notify the Environment
Agency immediately.

On further investigation HHOpCo staff identified a valve chamber full of approximately
8,000 litres of aviation fuel. Once the valve chamber was emptied, fuel was seen
leaking out of one of the attachments on the hydrant. Two bolts on the attachment
were so badly corroded that they had caused the leak, which was estimated at the
time of discovery to flow at 10 litres of fuel per minute. A later estimate corrected
the leak to 7 litres per minute. It is not known how long the leak had been going
on for or the total volume of fuel lost.

All bolts and valves on that section of pipeline were subsequently replaced to
stop the leak. The section was pressure tested and returned to normal operation
the following morning. The chamber in question has now been decommissioned.

HHOpCo attended an interview under caution at the Environment Agency office on

the 12 March 2009. The company admitted during the interview that a £7 million
automated leak detection system had been malfunctioning at the time and had not
detected the leak. This was also indicated in HHOpCo’s investigation report, which
revealed that the leak detection system was not working for at least five months
prior to the Environment Agency being notified of the incident. The company did
not put a manual testing system in place despite knowing that the automated system
was not working properly.

It quickly became clear that jet fuel had been leaking for some time. A specialist

remediation company sank boreholes to recover fuel and remediate the affected
area. As at June 2010 139,391 litres have been recovered and is still being recovered
at a rate of 80—100 litres per week.   The cost of remediation to date is approximately
£1 million.

Mohammed Jama, the Environment Agency’s lead officer on the case, said:

“Heathrow Hydrant Operating Company’s carelessness has led to the extensive pollution of groundwater. Fortunately, to date, we have not seen any major impact to local rivers but jet fuel in groundwater has the potential to seriously harm the environment and water quality. The fine issued reflects the serious effect that HHOpCo’s failures have had on the Taplow Gravels.”

“Once groundwater becomes polluted it is very difficult to clean up. We hope that the fine issued will act as a prompt to HHOpCo and similar companies, reminding them of the importance of compliance and making sure that their actions do not cause harm to or damage the environment.”

HHOpCo’s contractors have been in charge of remediation and monitoring of the
fuel plume and continue to provide updates to the Environment Agency.

29.9.2010   (Water Briefing)
https://www.waterbriefing.org/index.php/home/regulation-and-legislation/item/2817-company-fined-%C2%A340k-for-heathrow-groundwater-pollution?tmpl=component&print=1

 

Company fined £40K for Heathrow groundwater pollution

A London company responsible for supplying jet fuel at Heathrow Airport was fined

£40,000 last week and ordered to pay the Environment Agency in excess of £14,000
for its costs, after severely polluting groundwater beneath the airport, with
at least 139,000 litres of Jet A-1 aviation fuel.

Heathrow Hydrant Operating Company Limited (HHOpCo), of 8 York Road, London SE1

had pleaded guilty at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court in June this year to causing
polluting matter to enter the Taplow Gravels groundwater, contrary to section
85 (1) and (6) of the Water Resources Act 1991. The case had been committed to
Isleworth Crown Court for sentence.

The court heard that on 29 November 2007 HHOpCo informed the Environment Agency

of a leak in the fuel supply pipeline to aircraft stands at Heathrow’s Terminal
One building. The leak was discovered by HHOpCo nine days earlier following an
unrelated report from BAA about a report of jet fuel odour in a nearby access
tunnel. Without this unrelated report, it is not known how long the leak would
have continued to go undetected for. HHOpCo conducted an overnight pressure test
on the hydrant system and confirmed the leak, but failed to notify the Environment
Agency immediately.

On further investigation HHOpCo staff identified a valve chamber full of approximately
8,000 litres of aviation fuel. Once the valve chamber was emptied, fuel was seen
leaking out of one of the attachments on the hydrant. Two bolts on the attachment
were so badly corroded that they had caused the leak, which was estimated at the
time of discovery to flow at 10 litres of fuel per minute. A later estimate corrected
the leak to 7 litres per minute. It is not known how long the leak had been going
on for or the total volume of fuel lost.

All bolts and valves on that section of pipeline were subsequently replaced to
stop the leak. The section was pressure tested and returned to normal operation
the following morning. The chamber in question has now been decommissioned.

HHOpCo attended an interview under caution at the Environment Agency office on

the 12 March 2009. The company admitted during the interview that a £7 million
automated leak detection system had been malfunctioning at the time and had not
detected the leak. This was also indicated in HHOpCo’s investigation report, which
revealed that the leak detection system was not working for at least five months
prior to the Environment Agency being notified of the incident. The company did
not put a manual testing system in place despite knowing that the automated system
was not working properly.

It quickly became clear that jet fuel had been leaking for some time. A specialist

remediation company sank boreholes to recover fuel and remediate the affected
area. As at June 2010 139,391 litres have been recovered and is still being recovered
at a rate of 80—100 litres per week.   The cost of remediation to date is approximately
£1 million.

Mohammed Jama, the Environment Agency’s lead officer on the case, said:

“Heathrow Hydrant Operating Company’s carelessness has led to the extensive pollution of groundwater. Fortunately, to date, we have not seen any major impact to local rivers but jet fuel in groundwater has the potential to seriously harm the environment and water quality. The fine issued reflects the serious effect that HHOpCo’s failures have had on the Taplow Gravels.”

“Once groundwater becomes polluted it is very difficult to clean up. We hope that the fine issued will act as a prompt to HHOpCo and similar companies, reminding them of the importance of compliance and making sure that their actions do not cause harm to or damage the environment.”

HHOpCo’s contractors have been in charge of remediation and monitoring of the
fuel plume and continue to provide updates to the Environment Agency.

 

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and more at

 

Airports, glycols in de-icing liquids and Heathrow local water pollution