Long-term Damage Feared After Beverley Brook Oil Spill

Waterway could take years to get back to original state

The original oil spill in Pyl Brook. Picture: Ruhee


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A serious oil spill on Beverley Brook may have a permanent impact on local wildlife, it is feared.

The spill, which was first spotted by a dog walker on 25 March in Pyl Brook in Lower Morden and is believed to have been made deliberately possibly by the oil being poured into a street drain. This waterway feeds into Beverley Brook and the impact was visible both as it passes through Richmond Park and local Commons.

Closer to the source of pollution a heron died two weeks after being covered in oil but the Royal Parks says that they have not yet had any reports of any impact to wildlife in Richmond Park. Thames Water and the Environment Agency are continuing to monitor the situation. The Agency has categorised it as a Category 1 spill. Booms and other devices have been used to try to skim off and slow the spread of the oil.

Dog walkers on Wimbledon and Putney Commons and Richmond Park have been warned against letting their dogs enter the water. People walking by the river report that they can still see rainbow patterning on the water from the spill and smell oil.

The oil spill was visible in Richmond Park
The oil spill was visible in Richmond Park. Picture: Friends of Richmond Park

If you see any dead, distressed or oily fish, birds, mammals or invertebrates along the length of the Brook you are asked to call the Environment Agency incident report line on 0800 807 060 (all animals) and the RSPCA (birds and mammals) on 0300 1234 999.

The dead heron was found near Malden golf course. A local volunteer for London Wildlife Protection, Ruhee, said, “We were contacted by people from the golf course, he had been visiting there for two years. He must have suffered, that is the really sad thing, he had been seen like that for a couple of days at least and people had been trying to catch him.”

Ruhee said instead of being grey and white, when the heron was spotted last week it was black and covered in thick oil. The volunteer is concerned more wildlife could be impacted as there is still a lot of oil in the water.

She added, “I went for a walk with a friend on Sunday along part of the Beverley Brook and we saw a big collection of oil, we reported it to the Environment Agency.

“The smell was awful. The problem is it is really difficult to get rid of everything, it is really thick and black and gets caught up in shrubs along the way so it can get logged for some time then move on.”

In the aftermath of the spill. Pyl Brook is a small stream with two sources, a 5.3km main brook in Sutton Common that joins Beverley Brook in New Malden and a 3.9km East Pyl Brook that eventually joins the main Pyl east in Raynes Park

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said, “We are investigating the pollution incident in the Beverley Brook. We continue to work with contractors to remove the oil, limiting potential impact to the environment and wildlife.

“Our priority at this time is to respond to this incident and limit harm to the environment as much as possible. We are also collecting evidence to support our investigation into this unpermitted water discharge activity.”

A layer of oil on spot of water can stop oxygen getting to plants and animals beneath and oil will have seeped into the bank and this may have been particularly damaging because the spill coincided with the fish spawning season . It is likely that the Brook will take years to return to its original state.

Written with contributions from Tara O'Connor - Local Democracy Reporter

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April 8, 2022

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