Wealdstone Brook: Concern over grey fungus

Fungus in Brent's Wealdstone Brook

Fungus in Brent's Wealdstone Brook - Credit: Adam Shaw

You can smell Wealdstone Brook before you see it. Problems with sewage leaking into the North West London river has led to a grey fungus collecting on its bed, which releases a stinking gas. 

It has become so bad that children and dog walkers have been advised to stay away from the river. Some local residents said they have been physically sick due to the smell. 

This has led environmental campaigners to step up their efforts in calling on authorities – namely Brent Council, Thames Water and the Environmental Agency – to take serious action. 

Joy Rickman, who heads the Friends of Woodcock Park, described the brook as a “river of death”. Joy said: “It’s a real shame it’s got to how it is. The river is dying and has absolutely no chance of defending itself due to ongoing sewage problems. We should see this river as a source of pride. But you can’t access it because it’s dangerous.”

Joy has grand plans for the brook. She hopes to see the trees and plants cut back so people can actually visit, wants to introduce wildlife to the area and create a water testing site. Ultimately she wants to see it cleaned up properly, and kept clean, so that locals can make full use of it. 

She said: “We should be looking to the future. We’ve got 4,000 kids in this area, and a science college just next door, who could use the river for studying. 

“We talk about celebrating diversity, but we should also look at what biodiversity means. We could have a mixture of trees and plants, as well as wildlife that would nest here.” 

Most Read

Wealdstone Brook has been plagued by sewage problems for decades, as Joy explained that the first written record she could find of the issue came from 1938.  She appreciates that it will all come down to money, with authorities wary of spending on large environmental projects when finances are already strained. 

She said: “Of course it’s going to cost money, but this is very important. Why should future generations be left with this mess? Water and rivers are big news because they affect everything we do.”

She later added: “You look at something like smoking. That started off with a conversation and look at things now – it’s completely different. When you think about visiting green spaces, having a picnic by the river, it’s heavenly. We should want to have that here.”

In the past, Brent Council has said that Thames Water has responsibility for the local sewage system. A council spokesperson said: “We share residents’ concerns about the build-up of sewage in Wealdstone Brook. Thames Water has assured us it will conduct an immediate clean-up of the river.

“In addition, we are urgently working with Thames Water and the Environment Agency to investigate the cause of the problem so that together action is taken to resolve the issue and improve the water quality in the long-term.”

John Poole, Cllr Sunita Hirani and Joy Rickman by the river

John Poole, Cllr Sunita Hirani and Joy Rickman by the river - Credit: Adam Shaw

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “We’re aware of pollution at Wealdstone Brook which we suspect has been caused by misconnected pipes. We’ve met with the environmental health team at Brent Council and the local residents association to look at next steps for rectifying the situation and we’re currently arranging a thorough clean of the watercourse.

“Previously we have found evidence of pollution into Wealdstone Brook from misconnected pipes, which allow household waste to get into the surface water sewer rather than the foul network.

“As part of our investigation into this pollution we’ve been carrying out sewer cleaning in Brookfield Crescent over the last couple of weeks, which has now been completed and we’ll continue to work with local councils and residents on tackling misconnected businesses and properties in the area.”