Brent River Park’s citizen scientists lead the way in pollution monitoring
Citizen scientists from Ealing and Hanwell have devised a system for monitoring pollution in rivers. The devices were developed by members of the Clean Up the River Brent campaign (CURB) and are being deployed along the River Brent with the support of the Environment Agency (EA).
The Brent is afflicted with poor sewerage infrastructure, runoff from roads, and waste discharges from commercial operators. The devices will be placed along the river and will provide water quality readings every 15 minutes. This will enable CURB and the EA to compile data and build up a picture of river pollution over time and will act as an early warning system for severe discharges, which volunteers can follow up with more detailed monitoring.
The system has been designed to be low cost so that it can be deployed by other volunteer groups. It is solar powered and uses a chip made by Raspberry Pi. The system has its own Twitter account, @BrentMonitoring, which will provide frequent updates from along the river.
The inventor of the device, CURB campaigner Johnny Clifford added:
“I’m delighted that the EA have chosen to support our trial. We’re hoping that live, low-cost monitoring can revolutionise how communities protect their precious rivers, and it starts here in the Brent Valley. My device costs less than a cheap mobile phone to build, so for the first time whole-catchment monitoring is in the reach of community organisations and citizen scientists.”
Brent River & Canal Society (BRCS) Trustee and founder of CURB, Ben Morris, said:
“We are very excited to have received the support of the EA, which will enable a catchment-wide roll out of this system and are determined to raise the water quality in the Brent, which is badly degraded.”
EA Catchment Coordinator for the Brent catchment said:
“I am looking forward to working with CURB and BRCS to deliver this project on the ground. These devices have the potential to revolutionise the ability of citizen science-based water quality monitoring programmes to report on the situation in our rivers.”
Ben discusses the project in more detail in this EA video.
Public concern over sewage discharge into rivers has been rising as campaign groups like CURB have drawn attention to it. In January this year, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee noted that “only 14% of English rivers meet good ecological status” and criticised the lack of investment in pollution monitoring:
“It is currently difficult to get a complete overview of the health of rivers due to outdated, underfunded and inadequate monitoring.”
Volunteer groups are now attempting to fill that gap. Should the trials prove successful, the device developed by CURB will enable local groups around the country to monitor their rivers and provide essential information to the Environment Agency.
CURB and the BRCS will be providing regular updates on this project as well as drawing attention to the wider issues of pollution along the River Brent.
To find out more about CURB and get involved with the monitoring project or any of its other activities, please see the CURB page on the BRCS website.
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