Article taken from the Environment Agency. To view the article, click here.
Lord Chris Smith and the Environment Agency Board visited the Lower Lea Valley, home to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, in May 2010 to learn of its transformation from a heavily polluted industrial area into a haven for communities and wildlife.
During the visit the group saw first hand how close working between the Environment Agency and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) is transforming the Olympic Park, which is a major catalyst for regeneration in the Lower Lea Valley.
With expert support and guidance from the Environment Agency, the ODA has been able to reuse over 95% of demolition material in construction and recover over 90% (1.5 million tonnes) of contaminated soil for re-use. This work will help to ensure a rich environmental legacy is left to millions of Londoners.
The partnership has also been instrumental in helping to transform the lower reaches of the River Lee, historically one of the most polluted rivers in the country. Last year, as of a clean up, the Environment Agency funded work to remove 30,000 tonnes of oxygen-depleting sediment, including three tonnes of tyres, three cars, 40 motorbikes and 120 shopping trolleys, from the river.
Within the Olympic Park itself, one kilometre of natural river habitat is being reclaimed from what were previously vertical sheet walls. New wetlands are also being created as part of work to establish a corridor of green parkland along the Lower Lee River.
Lord Chris Smith, Chairman of the Environment Agency, said: "The Environment Agency is right behind the ODA in its mission to create an outstanding green Olympic legacy in east London.
"This is an unique opportunity for sustainable development and I have every confidence that the 2012 Games will set a new environmental precedent in the development of Olympic Parks. I would like to congratulate everyone working on this exceptional project.
"This has by no means been an easy achievement. The Olympic Park is not only one of the largest construction sites in Europe, it is also criss-crossed by eight kilometres of waterways and has an industrial history resulting in land contamination, water pollution, illegal waste sites, poor public access and flooding.
"The ODA has embraced the gargantuan task of unpicking decades of industrialisation to return the area to a refuge for communities and wildlife. By working alongside the Environment Agency, the ODA has been able to ensure that the development goes beyond complying with environmental legislation to achieve the accolade of the 'greenest games' in history."
John Armitt, Chair of the ODA said: "We are delivering one of the UK's most complex clean-up operations and transforming previously contaminated industrial land into a green back-drop for the 2012 Games and the UK's largest new urban park.
"We have worked closely with the regulatory bodies and local authorities, including the Environment Agency, to safely clean and recycle more than one million tonnes of contaminated material to help create the foundation for the venues, parklands and homes that will transform this part of east London."
Key environmental achievements on the River Lee and London 2012 Olympic site include:
Martin Baggs, Chief Executive of Thames Water, and Simon Bamford Waterway Manager of British Waterways (London), two essential partners in the transformation of the River Lee, met Lord Smith and the Environment Agency Board on the visit to discuss progress in the clean up. John Armitt, Chairman of the ODA, also joined the Board as they saw more about the achievements in improving the environment on the Olympic Park.