Plans to clean up a stream on a Sheffield estate have been halted amid fears the water could be contaminated by a bacterial infection spread by rats.
Short Brook in Westfield has become a dumping ground for rubbish, including a sofa, laminate flooring and an ironing board.
But the clean-up was stopped by Sheffield Council because the water could be contaminated with leptospirosis – Weil’s disease – a bacterial infection spread by animals.
The project was due to take place as part of a regeneration scheme by Westfield Big Local Partnership and students from Sheffield University Conservation Volunteers.
The area was awarded £1 million by the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Trust scheme to spend in the community over the next 10 years.
Partnership member and resident Roger Tew, aged 69, said: “In the name of community spirit we arranged to clear Short Brook, but then the council told us we couldn’t do it because there was a problem with rats that spread Weil’s disease.
“We can’t seem to get a resolution as they aren’t going to clean it. They seem at ease with letting us live with this hazard.”
Instead, the group organised a litter pick along the length of the stream instead of a weekend-long clean-up.
Weil’s disease can be caught by touching water contaminated with the urine of wild animals infected with leptospira bacteria and can cause flu-like and in severe cases organ failure and internal bleeding.
Mosborough Coun Tony Downing said the council will be cleaning the stream.
He said: “We will do it as a council, as prevention is paramount. There is no confirmation of Weil’s disease, its just a precaution as there is always a possibility wherever there is slow flowing water.”
A council spokesman said: “It is our normal practice to undertake a comprehensive site-based health and safety risk assessment before work is undertaken by any volunteers.
“Unfortunately, in this case, we were not able to do so in time for the work and we had to advise against this clean-up taking place.
“We will be happy to work with the group to plan future volunteering activities and to ensure that these are carried out safely and provide an enjoyable experience.”