From the Wandle to the Hudson, Carr campaigns on pollution

Lizzie Carr, the environmentalist from Purley who in 2016 paddled the length of England’s waterways to check how much waste plastic was polluting the country’s rivers and canals, is still battling against the toxic polluting of the nation’s rivers and streams.

Long journey ahead: Purley’s Lizzie Carr sets off down the mighty Hudson this week. Photo: Andy Hargraves

While the COP26 conference is taking place in Glasgow, ostensibly for Britain to “lead the world” over the climate emergency and mankind’s damage to the planet, Carr has this year been forced to cancel journeys along waterways in England because of the dangerous levels of toxic pollution being pumped into our rivers, streams and canals.

In July this year, Carr’s charity, Planet Patrol, had to abandon a paddleboarding clean up on one English river because the water was toxic – a recent heavy rainfall meant the local water companies storm drain had overflowed and raw sewage was released into the river.

In the past few months, spillages into Croydon’s very own, rare urban chalk stream, the Wandle, which runs from South Croydon through Wandle Park, into Waddon Ponds, and on towards Carshalton and the Thames, have seen it change colour to an unnatural bright green, with hugely damaging impact on the wildlife that depends on the water.

Close to home: river pollution has badly affected the Wandle this year

Previous spillages into the Wandle have traced the source to domestic toilets and bathroom waste being emptied directly into the river by the water companies.

The Environment Agency, supposedly the government watchdog which is supposed to prevent such environmental vandalism, has failed to act.

Planet Patrol says, “One of the biggest pollution sources is water companies and sewage treatment plants responsible for managing human waste.

“More than 400,000 spills of sewage leaked into England’s rivers and seas in 2020.

“If you want to challenge the current legislation that allows these privatised companies to pump excess levels of untreated sewage into England’s rivers then we must act.”

The charity asks for people to sign this petition by Surfers Against Sewage calling for the government to provide better protections for coastlines.

Carr has used her paddle board for scientific expeditions and to raise public awareness of the issue of plastic pollution of the world’s waterways. In 2016, she covered 400 miles when she paddled from the English Channel in Hampshire, via rivers and canals, to Cumbria, picking up discarded plastic bottles, traffic cones and 1,200 other nasties along the way.

In 2017, Carr became the first woman to paddle board solo across the Channel.

A year later, Carr paddled 170 miles up the Hudson River in North America, collecting water samples so microplastic levels in the river can be analysed.

The majority of plastic in America is “only used once before it’s thrown away”, she said.

“This is a man-made problem. Eighty per cent of marine debris starts from inland sources, including rivers like the Hudson, before it eventually flows out to the ocean.

“We can make a real difference to resolve the global problem of plastics choking out seas.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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