Fears of pollution in Wandle after major fire at Beddington sewage works
Work is taking place to avoid an environmental disaster after a major fire at Beddington sewage works last night.
The Environment Agency and Thames Water are on site taking measures to stop damage from sewage it is believed is flowing into the Wandle as a result of the fire at the Thames Water site.
Fifteen fire engines and up to 75 firefighters tackled the blaze, with flames up to 30ft in height, engulfed 80 per cent of the building,which measures 70 metres by 50 metres, Beddington Lane.
Video by Kingsley Hamilton
A spokesman for Thames Water has confirmed that a number of dead fish have been found in the Wandle this morning after an outbreak of sewage.
He said: "We have been dealing with a major fire at Beddington sewage works in Croydon overnight which left the site without power. This has now been restored.
"Fortunately, no one was injured but this did affect the quality of the effluent discharging into the River Wandle before we got alternative power supplies running.
"The Environment Agency has been on site helping to limit the impact on the river but regretfully, a number of dead fish have been found.
"We are still investigating the cause of the fire and will be working with the Wandle Trust to monitor the effect on wildlife."
An Environment Agency spokeswoman added: "We are out on site and we have been working throughout the night."
Equipment has been used to pump oxygen into the river to try and combat any damage.
A statement published on the Wandle Trust website last night said: "We have just had reports that a fire at Beddington Sewage Treatment Works this evening has knocked out their power systems.
"As a result sewage cannot be properly treated and is flowing into storm tanks; once these are full the untreated sewage will be discharged to the Wandle.
"Thames Water and the Environment Agency are on site ready to respond by helping to elevate oxygen levels in the river.
"This will help to minimise any harm to fish and other organisms.
"At this stage we don’t know how severe any impacts from the anticipated pollution may be."
Firefighters were called to the scene at 6.34pm, and the fire was under control by midnight.
Video by Jamie Hibbert
A fire investigation team is currently on site finding out what caused the blaze, which has caused major damage to the building. Police are currently treating the fire as non suspicious.
On arrival, firefighters carried out an initial sweep of the building and found no one trapped inside. They had begun to fight the flames from inside the building but concerns about the structure, and a lack of water pressure, meant the decision was taken to continue to fight the flames from outside.
A firefighter at the scene said the main reason so many fire crews were needed was to assist in getting water to the fire, because of the distance from the water hydrant in Beddington Lane to the sewage works.
Ladder equipment was also used to fight the fire from above.
Police put in road closures at either end of the sewerage works and advised local residents to stay inside and keep their windows closed.
Witness Kingsley Hamilton, 33, who lives behind the Thames Water sewage site, said: "The road was closed off at about 8.00pm, about 8.30pm the heat caused the windows to break and about 20 minutes later I heard an explosion, which must have been from the oxygen getting in the building. It was just an inferno."
He said he saw the first fire engines arriving.
The 33-year-old said: "The smoke at first was just smouldering, it looked like somebody was having a barbecue or a bonfire somewhere."
A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said: "The fire was under control by about midnight, and we were able to begin standing down officer from about 4.30am.
"Crews have remained there throughout the morning and at present there are two crews and 10 firefighters at the scene damping down."
He said the lack of an easily accessible hydrant was not uncommon when the fire department was called out to tackle large scale blazes.
Councillor David Dean, who is a Mitcham Common Conservator, said this morning's incident raised ongoing concerns about proposals to build an incinerator in Beddington Lane.
Coun Dean said: “Mitcham Common is a really important lung for the people of Mitcham. But of course it is next door to Beddington Lane which is a work site.
"These problems, when they occur, can be very damaging. We hope Thames Water and the environment Agency will get it under control. It is always a worry when new facilities are built at Beddington Lane.
"We still have an ongoing concern with the proposed incinerator. If they have a grave problem, it will affect not only Mitcham Common but the people of Mitcham.”