London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Greenwich 1961

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Greenwich Borough]

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It is then considered by various authorities to be a pollutant and the
predominating cause of the complaints.
By way of explanation it may be said that when the concentration
of dissolved oxygen in the river falls to zero, the sulphate
which is found in tidal waters is reduced by bacterial action and
hydrogen sulphide is formed. In this respect, the Director of the
Water Pollution Research Laboratory at Stevenage has asserted
that during dry weather many miles of the Thames Estuary contains
no oxygen and in this region hydrogen sulphide is evolved, giving
rise to complaints both because of its smell and because of the
corrosion it causes.
A Ministry statement in 1957 that river pollution, although
serious, was decreasing, was received with a certain amount of reservation
in some quarters. However, with regard to the Thames,
the London County Council's Rivers and Drainage Committee reported
that there had been a considerable improvement in the
sewage effluent discharged into the river from the Northern outfall
since the new primary sedimentation plant was brought into operation
in July, 1955.
The fact that no complaints were received during the current
year regarding smells emanating from the river supports the contention
made by the London County Council that there has been
a great improvement in the sewage effluent discharged into the river.
Storm Flooding.—Damage to property during the year due
to unusually heavy rainfall was of a minor nature and complaints
received regarding premises affected by storm damage were few
and, in the main, found to be due to defective roofs, blocked gutters
and drains. However, some complaints of flooding due to the surcharging
of sewers were received from Kidbrooke and the East
Greenwich and Charlton areas in the vicinity of the river. All
reported cases were visited and investigated by the respective
Public Health Inspectors and, where necessary, advice and treatment
were given.
In several instances, with the agreement and co-operation of
the Baths Superintendent, soft furnishings such as bedding, carpets,
etc., soaked with rainwater were collected, dried and subsequently
River Ravensbourne—Jurisdiction. Floodings accompanying
recent heavy storms have emphasised the need for preventing the
overflowing of the Ravensbourne and its tributaries at times of
heavy rainfall.