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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Cooking oil used in takeaways 'deliberately dumped' in London's Grand Union Canal

A large area of west London’s Grand Union Canal has been polluted by cooking oil that is thought to have been dumped there deliberately.

The Canal and River Trust has begun a major clean-up operation in the canal, which is the longest in the UK, running 137 miles from the Thames to Birmingham.

The charity believes “thousands of litres” of cooking oil were dumped into the waterway from a takeaway kitchen in Alperton.

It says the slick has spread at least six miles, with parts of the canal in west London’s Little Venice left beneath a greasy layer of yellowish scum.

Little Venice and Paddington areas are being cleaned, as well as the area in Alperton where it believes the oil originated.

A Canal & River Trust spokesperson said on Thursday: “We’ve been dealing with deliberate industrial scale cooking oil pollution on the Grand Union Canal Paddington Arm for several weeks, which has been rated as a Category 3 incident by the Environment Agency.

(Canal & River Trust)

“This means the financial responsibility for the clean-up falls entirely on our charity, with little prospect of the polluter being made to pay.

“Our team and contractors have been working to tackle the pollution at the suspected source in Alperton, West London, and as far as six miles along the canal at the Paddington Basin, using booms to gather the oil and pump it out.

“The operation has cost our charity tens of thousands of pounds and we urge anyone with information about the source of the pollution to report it to the Environment Agency so that the culprit is identified.

“Our ecologists and environmental scientists continue to monitor the impact on water quality and wildlife.

“While we have been doing our best to remove the worst of the oil, we have been advised that the remainder will break down naturally over the next few weeks.”

The oil is believed to have come from a ‘dark kitchen’ in the Alperton area of north-west London. Dark kitchens are sites used solely for the cooking of takeaway meals.

Booms - floating barriers - were put down on Wednesday to collect and remove the oil.

Canal and River Trust spokesperson Alex Paterson described the oil spill as “very serious”.

He told the BBC it is difficult to know exactly how much oil has spilled due to the way it spreads.

“But certainly, there are thousands of litres of cooking oil in the water,” he added.

The charity’s London and south east director, Ros Daniels, described the incident as “really distressing”.

He told the BBC: "This is a wonderful resource in the heart of London and for someone to dump their cooking oil into it is really distressing for the wildlife and for everyone who enjoys it as a place to relax and enjoy, and those who live on it.”

An Environment Agency (EA) spokesman said is specialist officers attended site earlier this month when the pollution was first reported.

“Further investigations found the environmental effect was low,” they said.

“We take all pollution incidents seriously, and are working with Thames Water and the Canal and River Trust, which owns the canal to mitigate impacts, identify the pollution source and take appropriate action.”

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