Lee Navigation - oil update

Update on the latest with the clean-up of the February 2018 oil spill on the Lee Navigation. Please note the actions for boaters below:

Stonebridge Lock, Lee Navigation Stonebridge Lock, Lee Navigation

Update Tuesday 17 April

While the source of the pollution has been stopped and the major clean-up operation scaled down as a result, our teams are continuing to respond to small pockets of oil that still remain along the river. In the last week this has included cleaning oil from Old Ford Lock and by the Prince of Wales pub in Clapton.

We believe this oil is remnants of that which collected in low flow areas and between boats during the worst of the spill in March. With boats now moving again, this frees up the oil, and Old Ford and Clapton are natural gathering points for it because of the flow of the river.

We are continuing to remain vigilant and react as soon as any oil is sited. If you do see any oil, or have any concerns, do get in touch with us by emailing our team.

Thank you to everyone who has continued to keep us informed to date about what they are seeing and experiencing out on the Lee.

Thursday 29 March - today our teams were clearing up at Old Ford Lock and Lea Bridge, collecting major debris from the water as we travelled between these two destinations.

We’ll be out tomorrow (30 March) by Matchmakers Wharf, which is a natural gathering point for debris. We’ll then pick up debris we see as the boat travels south.

Wednesday 28 March - today our teams have been removing oil from around boats at Tottenham and the Springfield Marina areas. Our focus tomorrow will be Lea Bridge (fast flows on the river today has carried oil down to this point). We will also have teams at Old Ford Lock.

Tuesday 27 March - we have been working on two different clean-up operations on the River Lee today. The first was our teams working from Lea Rowing Club, collecting oil and debris from between boats, and using our boat to access areas that we couldn’t reach from the towpath. The second saw the Environment Agency using a boom and skimmer to collect oil from the Lea Bridge area.

Tomorrow, we will again be focussing on the Springfield Marina area, initially heading north.

Monday 26 March - today (Monday, 26 March) we have had teams clearing debris from the water at Matchmakers Wharf. Using our weed boat we targeted areas we couldn’t reach from the towpath or from any land on the offside.

Tomorrow we will be working from Lea Bridge, which has been a gathering point for oil, before heading north towards Tottenham, aiming to pick up as much oil/debris as possible.

Friday 23 March - our teams have been working with the Environment Agency and Adler & Allan today. The focus has been skimming oil at Old Ford Lock and Matchmakers Wharf. We also removed over a ton of debris from the Lea Bridge area and with the help of boaters, removed a significant amount of oil/water that had been trapped between boats and the towpath.

If anyone does collect rubbish or debris over the weekend, please leave it safely at Old Ford, Lea Bridge or Tottenham Lock and we will collect it on Monday.

The clean-up operation will continue into next week, beginning at Matchmakers Wharf. Thanks again to everyone for all your help.

Thursday 22 March - we’ve had teams clearing debris from the water at Lee Bridge and Old Ford lock. We’ve also removed three tonne bags of rubbish from the same areas.

Tomorrow we have got use of a skimming machine and will be using this to clear oil at Match Makers Wharf. 

Wednesday 21 March – waterway open, clean-up continues. Following the re-opening on Monday 19 March, there is residual oil and small pockets of oil still on the waterway and we will continue to clean this up, as well as collecting the other debris.

Since Monday teams have been collecting contaminated waste that has already been hauled out of the river, for example on the Hertford Union and at Lee Bridge. On Thursday 22 March our teams aim to target spots at Lee Bridge and Matchmakers Wharf, particularly floating debris.

Thank you to everyone who has supported, and continues to support, the clean-up effort, and for your patience and co-operation over the past weeks. 

Monday 19 March - today we worked with the EA and specialist contractors to remove more of the oily debris at Lea Bridge, and have assessed some of the debris at Lea Bridge. The debris coming down is now consistent with what would be coming down pre-incident. There is some residual oil evident in the waterway and small pockets will remain around moored boats, which we will continue clean over upcoming weeks.

As visible pollution is similar levels to that often seen at the site, the waterway was handed back to us today to continue under normal waterway conditions and we pleased to confirm that the waterways is now reopen for navigation.

Thank you to everybody who has helped support the clean-up effort, and for your patience and co-operation over the past weeks.

Friday 16 March - the EA contractors, supported by the Trust, are still clearing the oil where it has collected at the boom at Lea bridge Road and further down at Old Ford Lock. This is causing the closure to remain in place.

Movement from Old Ford Lock up to the boom at Lea Bridge is still allowed along with movement north of the boom to Tottenham lock. Sanitary facilities are still available at Springfield marina.


Tuesday 13 March - according to the EA, they believe that the oil we’re seeing now is part of the first release of oil into the drainage network. With the rainfall we have received, it is thought likely that further pockets of oil are being flushed through the drains. There is still a significant quantity of oil to remove from the drainage system, so the contractors are working on this at the moment.

Last week, the Canal and River Trust, the Environment Agency and volunteers worked effectively together to remove all of the waste oil and debris at Old Ford lock, with the Environment Agency providing an oil skimmer and the Trust providing a boat. Volunteers were also on site over the weekend clearing up the oil, for this we are truly thankful.

The intention is to work together again this week to remove oil, working from the water. The idea is to move northwards from Old Ford lock towards Lea Bridge, covering as much distance as possible.

Here is an update on the affected locations:

Lea Bridge Weir

On Monday 12 March contractors were on site at Lea Bridge Weir collecting and bagging debris from the booms that are in place. They have been bagging debris there today. As long as the tanker is fixed, they are planning to get it to Lea Bridge on Wednesday 14 March to attempt the skimming. 

Tottenham Marshes

Another contractor team have also been at Tottenham Marshes today, 13 March. They have been performing another clean of the outfall chamber into the Pymmes Brook, which had filled with oil again over the weekend. They have now finished on site today, having vacuumed out oil from the chamber and replaced the absorbent pads that were present.

You can see information on how we have dealt with this incident since the beginning on our notices page.

For boaters

  • the EA have requested that we ask all boaters to check whether there is any oil caught up around their boats
  • if there is, you need to untether your boat as soon as possible, to dislodge the oil and allow it to flow downstream. Once this is done, the contractors can work their way along the Lee Navigation cleaning up the dislodged oil where it accumulates
  • Tottenham to Old Ford Lock on the Hertford Union remains closed
  • we are now allowing boats above the boom at Lee Bridge to move within the Lee Bridge to Tottenham Lock boom area so they will have access to Springfield Marina
  • please do not pass or go through the booms for any reason

Contaminated oil pad collection information

Please, if possible, take contaminated oil stuff to the following places for collection.

  • Lee Rowing Club (to the left as you look at the club)
  • Lee bridge
  • Tottenham Lock
  • Old Ford Lee

These are places where we'll be able to get the best access to the towpath. For instance, on Wednesday 7 March we have removed 40 of the large ton bags from Old Ford.

What to do if you see an animal in distress

We do not have staff trained to handle animals that have been affected by the oil spill. However, we are working closely with the Swan Sanctuary and RSPB in the area. If you see an animal in distress, please report this to either of these organisations. 

Last date edited: 6 June 2018