Sewage fungus is a clear sign a river is sick. It grows when the pollution in the river is bad enough to see bacteria grow so much that it forms long grey feathery strands and clumps.
When the Moselle River was sent through its new, more natural, channel last year it looked and looks great.
I was at Lordship Recreation Ground’s opening day and everyone was having fun. There was a stage with great local musicians.
I wandered down to the Moselle itself, had a closer look, and did a water quality test. Phosphate levels were high meaning there was wastewater from people’s homes getting into the river. It was also very smelly. People asked what I was doing and then shouted out “It stinks”. Everyone seemed to know it was unhealthy.
I went to the most eastern section of the Moselle were it leaves the Rec and goes under the Broadwater Farm Estate. Sewage fungus was growing there, but just that last part.
Sadly less than 6 months later the sewage fungus has spread along almost the entire length of the Moselle, coating the plants that grow in the water. It still smells.
The plants that live in the Moselle can clean pollution from water. But not this much. They can make slightly murky water fresh, but they can’t do the job of a sewage works.
While the misconnections from people’s homes can be investigated and put right they come back in time (this is dishwasher machine water, shower waste and kitchen sink water entering the Moselle).
The problem will only get better in the long term if people understand that the Moselle River starts on their roof and in the gutters of their street. When we all realise that the water feeding urban rivers goes down the drainpipe it’s easier to understand how it can be polluted by a pipe from a wachine machine being connected to it instead of the sewer pipe.
Theo Thomas Twitter: @theojthomas