Is the Thames really that polluted?

In late July, the sky was blue and the air warm. London had magnificent architecture, floating skyscrapers, rows of intricately shaped facades, vast expanses of green space and more, but one thing stood out – the river. You can see when the sun was shining on the city, with the sky white-blue, the river was a color similar to a melted Cadbury’s. And looking back at pictures from my time in London that day, the river really sticks out like a sore thumb. But to my great surprise, as I was waiting for an Uber boat on the Waterloo Pier, I saw a slippery, black surface from the murky water – to my surprise a seal. So that raises the question – if a seal can live in it, is the Thames really that polluted?

In 1957, researchers from the Natural History Museum viewed vast areas of the Thames as so polluted that the river was biologically dead. And while the color of its waters can blend right in with sewage leaks and muddy ditches, the secret behind the river’s English breakfast tea-like water lies in its geology – not pollution. Many people think that the color of the Thames is suitable for raw wastewater, human waste and other things that are best not discussed in detail, and although the Thames is not devoid of pollution – rather the opposite, in fact – this is just one of London’s many urban legends.


The more boring reality is that the river will always be brown, regardless of the extent of the cleaning effort, as it is by nature a muddy river and develops into a tidal estuary that transports huge amounts of silt per hectare. tide. And the river is certainly not biologically dead anymore; bottlenose dolphins, guinea pigs, seals, seahorses, crabs and even sharks inhabit it – I’ve even seen crabs in the East India Docks and the aforementioned seal in Waterloo, along with a few around Greenwich.


The Thames also has idyllic nature reserves away from the city center both in the bay of south west London and in the estuary of far east London – Rainham Marshes in (not surprisingly) Rainham, London Wetland Center and Leg O Mutton in Barnes, Ham Lands in Richmond and more. And even in the city center, London certainly would not be the same without the Thames flowing through it, where the muddy water provides a pleasant contrast to the sky when it is sunshine (not very often).

So the next time you stroll along the Thames, do not mind walking next to such a miserable looking river – now you know that even though our beloved river looks like an open sewer, it has more wildlife than most rivers on across the developed world, and is apparently clean, and will be cleaner with the new under-construction megakloak. So do not retreat from the river dive with your head first into its wonders.
PS Do not actually dive into the river

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