Local groups advise against taking a dip in the river, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter
Environmental campaigners are warning people not to swim in the River Lea this summer because of the risk it poses to their health and wildlife.
Campaign group Save Lea Marshes warned that recent news coverage of people enjoying themselves in the river has “painted a misleading portrait” of it “as a beach for party goers”.
They said that “large numbers” had flocked to Waterworks Meadow in Leyton this month and that signs have now gone up asking people not to swim.
The signs, put up by Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA), warn crowds may disturb kingfishers and other birds and could lead them to abandon their nests.
Caroline Day, from Save Lea Marshes, said: “It is important that enjoyment of the marshes should not come at the expense of wildlife or your health.
“We ask anyone who loves this area not to use barbecues, play amplified music or light fires here.
“Anyone who is a fan of open water swimming, please choose safe options such as the West Reservoir and support the East London Waterworks Park campaign for a rewilded swimming area on the former Thames Depot site.”
The aforementioned campaign to turn the concreted depot area in Lea Bridge Road into a safe place for wild swimming has so far raised almost £30,000 in donations.
Campaigners also fear people swimming in the river are being exposed to large amounts of plastic and waste pollution.
An LVRPA spokesperson said: “We would like to stress that swimming is not allowed in the river, not only for safety reasons but also to protect nesting birds and other wildlife in the area.”