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Fears ‘orange’ water has contaminated land near school and farm

PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 April 2020

Orange water running through Willow Farm, Little Heath, after heavy rain. Picture: Clive Wilderspin

Orange water running through Willow Farm, Little Heath, after heavy rain. Picture: Clive Wilderspin

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The Environment Agency is investigating a water course that runs near a special needs school in Redbridge amid fears that it could be contaminated.

Up to 800 homes could be built on fields south of Billet Road, according to the Local Plan. Picture: Google SatelliteUp to 800 homes could be built on fields south of Billet Road, according to the Local Plan. Picture: Google Satellite

Last year government officials were called to Billet Road, Little Heath after a landowner began digging up a field to the south that was formerly used as a rubbish tip.

For years locals have flagged concerns to Redbridge Council that the site could be contaminated, as the water course runs orange with leacheate whenever it rains.

It also passed through neighbouring Willow Farm and down past Little Heath School in Hainault Road.

Chris Gannaway, vice chair of the Aldborough Hatch Defence Association, said he understood some surface-level checks had been carried out.

Fences have been thrown up around the site and ground works undertaken by the owner. Picture: Hannah SomervilleFences have been thrown up around the site and ground works undertaken by the owner. Picture: Hannah Somerville

But he added: “We are worried about what’s down deep. It’s all unknown and that water has been running down for years into the trenches.

“Nothing has been taken onboard. The issue hasn’t been resolved at all.”

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Land south of Hainault House was formerly greenbelt but de-listed in 2016 and is now allocated for housing.

Neighbours fear the reddish water is the result of contamination from a former landfill site. Picture: Clive WilderspinNeighbours fear the reddish water is the result of contamination from a former landfill site. Picture: Clive Wilderspin

In a recent report, Redbridge Council noted: “The Environment Agency advised that the area… appears to have been an unlicensed tip that received waste between 1970 and 1973.”

In November 2019 the owner, Sunshine Island Properties Ltd, an entity registered in the British Virgin Islands, built fences around the land and dug a large hole in one corner.

It followed a hearing at Romford County Court in which Sunshine re-asserted its claim to the site over a group of local businessmen.

When approached by the Recorder the company did not comment.

The water course runs through Willow Farm and past Little Heath School. Picture: Hannah SomervilleThe water course runs through Willow Farm and past Little Heath School. Picture: Hannah Somerville

Redbridge Council said the works carried out were “routine ground works” and investigations would be carried out at the same time.

A spokesman added: “Whilst we appreciate these works have caused a fair degree of disturbance, they did not meet the criteria to warrant planning enforcement action.”

An Environment Agency spokesman said: ““We are currently investigating a report of a suspicious liquid in Seven Kings Water at Little Heath.

“Environment Agency officers responded to a separate enquiry in November last year concerning waste disposal operations at Billet Road in Romford, but they were satisfied no illegal activity was taking place.”


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