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

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City of London 1904

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Port of London]

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Early in the past year an unusual form of nuisance arose from the presence
in the river of the carcasses of a number of dead horses, the animals having
been drowned by the sinking of a steamer in the Pool, and subsequently
floating out of the wreck. The tide brought the carcasses down and stranded
them at various parts of the river.
Beyond keeping the carcasses as far as practicable under observation, no
action was taken by your Officers, as it appeared that the duty of clearing
the river of these carcasses devolved upon the Thames Conservators, but
as they did not agree with this view, it became necessary to dispose of
one carcass by towing it to sea and letting it go on the ebb tide. The others
were destroyed at the expense of the owners.
The general condition of the River water during the year was good. Regular
observation was kept, but at no time did the River generally become offensive,
and this in spite of the fact that large quantities of impure liquid are allowed
to flow into the Thames both at the outfalls of the London County Council at
Barking and Crossness, and in rainy weather dilute crude sewage passes into
the River from many outfalls at different places on each side of the River so
as to relieve the sewers in times of heavy rainfall.
The work of the removal of the accumulation of mud in the locks of the
West India Docks and the Mill wall Dock has been thoroughly carried out by
the respective Dock Companies, and for the first time for many years during
hot weather the water in the Mill wall Dock was not offensive. During
August, complaints were received of offensive smells alleged to arise in the
vicinity of Limekiln Dock.
The place known as Limekiln Dock is a small creek in the neighbourhood
of Limehouse, and has been the subject of complaint on several occasions.
The action of the winds and tides carries a certain amount of drift into the
creek, which remains and ultimately settles to the bottom, forming a ridge
or bar.
The place was specially visited on this occasion at high and at low water,
but no nuisance could be detected as arising from accumulated debris or mud.
At the time of the complaint the carcasses of two dogs were stranded there,
and it is probable that the offensive smell arose from that cause. These were
at once buried in the river bed.