Fancy a swim in the Leedo? No, ta: you are risking your health in London’s dirty old Lee

LeeSwim©da19: relaxing on the Lee Navigation canal, Walthamstow side © 160719
Swim©da19: relaxing on the Lee Navigation canal, Walthamstow side © 160719
The Leedo, also dubbed the Costa del Wick: hazardous, whatever you wish to call it

TO A LEADING GREEN CAMPAIGNER, the Lee is England’s most polluted river, and few stretches look dirtier than the junk-filled section that run by Hackney Marshes. 

To a some northeast Londoners, however, it is not the filthy Lee but their lovely Leedo, where they have been regularly sunning themselves and happily bathing during our record-hot summer. 

Adults and children — pets, even — lol about on the muddy banks and in the toxic water.

Toxic? An investigation by The Times this month found that England’s rivers are unsafe for bathing because they contain record amounts of heavy metals, pesticides and other dangerous  pollutants. Raw sewage has also been released into the Lee.

Don’t be wet: our rivers are not safe for swimmers, says a newspaper investigation

The Canal and River Trust charity responded to Loving Dalston’s enquiry: “Thanks for making us aware of this. From the photos and your description it looks like the Environment Agency’s section of the river. 

“We would always encourage people to enjoy the water but not to go in for a swim.

“Many of our waterways in London still suffer from pollution or littering and the quality of the water is not compatible with swimming.”

At time of writing, the Environment Agency, which has been strongly criticised over the last year for its alleged failure to take firm action on pollution, had not responded.

David Altheer 080819

LeeSwim©da19chair: relaxing on the Lee Navigation canal, Walthamstow side © 160719
Sitting comfortably? Not if you read about river standards

* Backstory: Tottenham to Hackney — thousands of fish die in killer riverWrong kind of weather for fish; Dirty old river; Leisurely walk along the Lee; Turtles dumped in Hackney 

* You can report pollution via the Environment Agency’s incident hotline 0800 80 70 60 — free from a landline, network operator’s call rates from a mobile, 24 hour service. Campaigner Thames21 says the Lee is England’s most polluted river. If wild swimming still appeals to you, please consider instead an outdoors pool, such as the Olympic-length London Fields Lido. 

* All pictures © DavidAltheer [at], and all for sale for reproduction. Bigger format versions usually available

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