23rd November 2021

Frays River gets a pass in our first successful Outfall Safari!

With the tides turning on lockdown back in May, our volunteer event days had been slowly trickling back to normality. From Pennywort removals to Balsam bashing, not only were we able to pick up where we left off from last year to help keep our rivers flowing – we were finally able to open the floodgates to start our first Outfall Safari in Colne Valley on the Fray’s River – and what a success it was. With our volunteers already scouting the other rivers, we hope to run the annual fun days out for many years to come. But for those of you that missed out this year, you’re probably wondering – what exactly is an Outfall Safari?

Some outfalls are bold(left), whilst others are a bit shy(right)

The Outfall Safari is a river survey developed by ZSL with key stakeholders in 2016. Following their methodology, we worked in partnership to train a group of enthusiastic volunteers the 2021 way – via Zoom – to look out for signs of pollution from outfalls, pipes that feed rivers rainwater collected from street drains and your roof – or at least that is what they are supposed to do. Although this system may seem flawless, unfortunately, mistakes can occur in the form of misconnections, where appliances from your home such as washing machines are incorrectly connected to the outfalls flowing into rivers instead of the wastewater pipes that lead to the local sewage works for treatment. Ergo, this results in untreated water gushing from outfalls and emptying into rivers which end up killing wildlife, destroying natural aesthetics, and turning your pleasant walks along a river into an unbearable trudge by a foul-smelling cesspool.

Our training session on identifying and ranking outfalls.

Commencing during mid-May, just in time for the overdue April showers to rain on our parade, we were fortunately blessed with sunshine in the final days of the month, allowing the eager-beaver River Rangers to patrol and cover the entirety of the river in just a day. With their quick report, the photos were flowing in, and the verdict was clear – the River Frays is (almost) sewage free, with the exception of one sneaky outfall spewing fat and oil in a small section of the river. Thanks to our observant volunteers, who caught the pollution in the act and informed Thames Water immediately. They will now clean up the mess, find the source of the pollution and help bump up the Fray’s River rating to a 10/10.

Could your appliances be contributing to a polluted river?

And it’s not all just a job well done. Our volunteers also reported a fun, sunny day out and making friends along the waterway. Lindsey said “I really enjoyed being a part of this. I’ll keep an eye out on the offending outfall, it’s not far away from me,” and Lucio, a new River Ranger, was quoted as saying “Great meeting and spending some time outdoors with some of you”. With volunteers like these, the future of our rivers looks crystal clear!

Caught in the act! This polluting outfall will be cleaning their act soon.

So, with an enjoyable, successful start, we look forward to setting our sights on the bigger rivers in Colne Valley next year with hopefully more volunteers keen to keep our rivers flowing cleanly. If you are interested in joining next year or wanting to get involved in other conservation activities as a River Rangers, please email [email protected] to join our email list and look out for events here.

You might even find a scenic little spot by the river that you can claim for your own like one of our volunteers did, see picture below: 

A view of the Fray’s River, with no polluting outfalls in sight!