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Twickenham 'fatbergs' blamed for River Crane pollution

MP Vince Cable says more needs to be done to educate residents and crack down on restaurants pouring cooking fat down their drains

MP Vince Cable addresses members of the public at a meeting about the River Crane (photo courtesy of FORCE)

'Fatbergs' blocking drains have been blamed for sewage spills in the River Crane - and Twickenham has been shamed as one of London's worst offenders.

The impact of the congealed lumps of cooking fat and wet wipes was highlighted by water bosses at a meeting to address pollution of the river, which runs from Yeading to Isleworth.

A disastrous sewage release in 2011, for which Thames Water accepted responsibility, was followed by damaging spillages in 2013 and earlier this year, which were blamed on environmental vandalism and a blocked drain respectively.

Twickenham MP Vince Cable chaired a meeting at Whitton Community Centre last Friday (October 31), which was organised by FORCE (Friends of the River Crane Environment) and attended by representatives from Thames Water, the Environment Agency and Heathrow, as well as about 60 members of the public.

He said he was shocked to hear Twickenham was a hotspot for fatbergs - known to have reached the size of a double decker bus - which block drains, causing harmful sewage and untreated drain water to flow into the river.

"There are still too many big spillages costing the lives of thousands of fish and other wildlife in the Crane and Thames Water and Heathrow have a responsibility to minimise risk, but there is some encouragement from the fact fish stocks are now being rebuilt and kingfishers have reappeared," he said.

"The big shock of the meeting was the revelation that Twickenham is the worst in London for fat and wet wipes blocking pipes.

"It does suggest the need for public education about the proper disposal of wet wipes and cooking fat, and the need to bring pressure to bear on restaurants which are acting in a very antisocial way by pouring cooking fat down their drains."

Thames Water highlighted figures earlier this year showing it had cleared more than 63,000 fatbergs from pipes across west London over the last five years, which between them were responsible for flooding over 4,800 homes in the area.

According to those statistics, Harrow was the most blocked up borough, with 13,417 fatbergs. Hounslow had 9,928 blockages, causing 562 homes to flood, and there were 5,298 fatbergs in the borough of Richmond, which were responsible for 295 floodings.

FORCE chairman Rob Gray said he was pleased with the turnout and the level of debate at last week's meeting.

"The main thing we wanted to see was a consensus about how to deal with the big sewage events and the day to day chronic pollution harming the river," he told getwestlondon.

"We want to have the river in as good as or a better state by 2016 than it was before the 2011 pollution incident, which is a commitment made by Thames Water, and also to have it in a good ecological condition by then, which is an Environment Agency target.

"I would like to see those key organisations working together with us to see how those two targets can best be achieved."

* Volunteers are needed this Sunday (November 9) to help clear up Crane Park, in Whitton, and create wood-chipping paths. If you can help, meet at the Mill Road entrance to the park at 10.30am, and bring old clothes and sturdy shoes.

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