South East Rivers Trust (& the Wandle Trust)

Yellow Fish

Many outside drains which take rainwater from our gutters and roads flow directly into the nearest river, a fact which most people are unaware of.

This means that our rivers are regularly polluted through the misuse of surface water drains. Detergents, paints, oils and other toxic substances can seriously affect the wildlife that calls the river home.

Have you seen this Fish?

The Yellow Fish campaign shares the message “Only Rain Down the Drain”.

These markers are being installed next to road drains in pollution hot spots to remind local residents to use surface water drains responsibly.

What can you do to help?

1. Do use environmentally friendly cleaning products or take your car to a commercial car wash.

If you choose to wash your car at home or on the road, these are some things that you can do to minimise the water quality impact:

  • Use biodegradable, phosphate-free, waterbased cleaners only.
  • Minimize water usage. Use a spray nozzle on your hose, or have water in buckets, to minimise water volume and runoff.
  • Wash on an area that absorbs water, such as gravel, or grass. This can filter water before it enters groundwater, road drains, or rivers. Only let wash water soak into the ground if you are using biodegradable, phosphate-free cleaners.
  • Always empty wash buckets into sinks or toilets.

2. Don’t dispose of chemicals and oils through the outside drain.

Oils – If you maintain your own car, van or motorbike you need to make sure you look after the used oil when you change it so it doesn’t pollute your local environment. Make sure you have an oil spill kit to hand and store the old oil in a suitable leak-proof container. Dispose of oil at your local household waste recycling centre.

Paints – Although paint is perfectly safe for use on your walls and ceilings, the ingredients within mean you can’t just pour it down the drain. If you have some paint leftover from a DIY project that is still good to use – consider donating it to a scheme like Community RePaint who distribute it to community groups and people in need. If the paint is old and no longer usable, scape it out into a cardboard container and allow it to dry (you can add sawdust of dry soil if there’s a lot) before throwing it into your household bin. Empty cans can then be taken to your local household waste recycling centre.

Cement or concrete – Cement and concrete are incredibly alkaline and can burn fish and other wildlife if it enters the river. It can also dry within the pipes causing blockages. If you have a small amount left at the end of a DIY job, spread out in small pieces on some cardboard in the sun to harden before disposing of it at your local household waste recycling centre. When washing out cement mixers or buckets do not just pour this water down the drain – dilution is not the solution. Leave the water in a bucket overnight to allow the solids to settle to the bottom. The dirty water on top can be disposed of in a discrete area of your garden where it can soak into the ground. The settled solids can then be laid out to dry as above before disposal.

Other chemicals – seek advice from your local Council on how to dispose of your hazardous waste appropriately.

3. Do report pollution you see in the river to the Environment Agency hotline: 0800 80 70 60.

Murky or discoloured water?

Bad smell of sewage or oil?

Fish gasping for air at the surface of the water?

Call the Environment Agency Hotline and report it as a pollution incident.

4. Join us at one of our Yellow fish events.

Help protect our rivers from pollution by sharing the Yellow Fish message – Only Rain Down The Drain!

At these events we’ll be installing markers next to drains along residential roads, promoting the scheme to local residents and stenciling eye catching designs around each drain to make sure everyone is aware that these drains should only be carrying rainwater to the river.

Check out our Events Page for the latest opportunities to help your local river.