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Environment: Report warns that no English river is clean from pollution

Environment: Report warns that no English river is clean from pollution

Not a single river in England is free from pollution  with waterways fouled by a 'chemical cocktail' of raw sewage, slurry, oils, car tyre microplastics and wet wipes (stock image)

A ‘chemical cocktail of raw sewage, oils, slurry and wet wipes has polluted every river in England.

This is the conclusion from a report of Parliament’s Environment Audit Committee. It identified agriculture and then water companies to be the largest contributors.

The committee, which received expert advice for months, warned that ubiquitous pollution poses a threat to the environment as well as to human health.

The UK’s waterways are used for recreational activities such as swimming, fishing, and other sports. However, bacteria from sewage or slurry can make river users very sick.

The noxious influx in chemicals, microplastics, and excessive amounts nutrients are threatening river-based wildlife and causing harmful algal blooms.

The audit committee specifically criticized government inaction as well as budget cuts that tie the hands of Environment Agency in fighting pollution.

The environment minister stated that the report was published today because it ‘highlights many issues that this government is currently tackling’.

Not a single river in England is free from pollution  with waterways fouled by a 'chemical cocktail' of raw sewage, slurry, oils, car tyre microplastics and wet wipes (stock image)

A ‘chemical cocktail’ of raw and processed sewage, oils, slurry and oils has polluted every river in England (stock image).

Environmental Audit Committee chair and MPPhilip Dune stated that rivers are essential to the health of the environment and should be protected. BBC News.

“Our inquiry has revealed multiple failures in the monitoring and governance of water quality.

“For too long, the government and regulators have allowed the Victorian sewerage system buckle under increasing pressure.”

Rebecca Pow, Environment Minister, dismissed these criticisms.

She said, “We are going further than any other government in order to protect and improve the health our rivers and oceans.”

“We welcome the report by the Environmental Audit Committee which highlights many areas this government is currently addressing.”

The committee made a number recommendations to the Government as part of its report.

They encourage water companies to use more severe penalties when they discharge sewage into the environment. This is an action that is supposed to only be allowed in very exceptional circumstances.

These discharges can be identified using signs such as the presence of tampons and toilet paper in the water or the capture of human waste on plants along riverbanks.

According to the committee’s findings, local community groups often report sewage overflow episodes to the Environment Agency that are not reported by the responsible water companies. This suggests that these discharges may be more common than we think.

“We support the urgent call of the committee to improve England’s rivers’, said a spokesperson for Water and Wastewater Service Provider Membership Organisation Water UK.

They added that many of the recommendations mirror those in our 21st Century Rivers Report.

They explained that this requires government, regulators and water companies to work together to create a comprehensive national plan for transforming our rivers.

The committee have advocated for more substantial penalties for water companies that discharge sewage into the environment (as pictured)  a course of action that is only supposed to be allowed in truly exceptional circumstances

The committee has called for greater penalties for water companies who discharge sewage into our environment (as pictured). This is a course of action that should only be allowed in very exceptional circumstances.

According to theEnvironment Audit Commission, the most common source of pollution in England’s waters comes from intensive farming, and in particular chicken farms.

The leaking of excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from these farms via sources including the birds faeces, urine, and bird faeces can cause algae to flourish in waterways and form a thick layer at surface.

Algal blooms can also cause oxygen to be absorbed into the water and suffocate other creatures living in the river.

The report highlighted the high levels of phosphorus found in the River Wye in Wales and the south-west Midlands. It is thought that this was due to the water from some 20 million chickens caught in the river catchment.

The report recommends that the Government ban the construction of poultry farms in areas with high nutrient levels.

The leaking of excessive amounts of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus from chicken farms (like that pictured)  via sources like the birds faeces and urine  can cause algae in waterways to flourish in response, forming a thick, suffocating layer at the surface

Excessive leaking of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus (like the one pictured) can cause algae to flourish in waterways, leading to a thick, oppressive layer at the surface.

Other recommendations included the creation of a safe bathing area along each river by 2025, as well as a ban against single-use leanings and plastic-containing hygiene products.

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The committee also cautioned against the disposal of oils, fats, and wet wipes down sinks or toilets. These substances can be emitted into rivers and can also clump together, clogging up sewers.

These blockages are estimated to cost English sewage companies and customers around 100 million annually to clear.

The Environment Agency National Highways and the Environment Agency were also criticised for not doing enough in addressing the pollution that occurs when microplastics particles emitted from worn car tyres get washed off roads into nearby rivers.

TheEnvironmental audit committee recommended that surveys be done in Scotland or Wales to assess river quality following the report’s focus on English waterways.

The complete report’s findings were published on the Website of the Environmental Audit Committee.


Fatbergs are blockages caused by flushed fats, oil, grease, and other wastes such as wet wiping and illegal drugs.

They are found under most UK cities, and they grow larger with each flush.

They can also be food wrappers and human waste. This blocks tunnels, and increases the risk of sewage rushing into homes.

Cooking fat is biggest contributor to Britains fatbergs, making up nearly 90% of the sample

The UK’s longest known monster was a monster measuring 750m (2,460ft). It was discovered under London’s South Bank in 2017.

They can grow to be metres tall and hundreds upon metres long. Water providers declared an epidemic in fatberg emergencies last year in 23 UK cities. This caused tens or millions of pounds of damage.

The UK’s largest known monster was a 750-metre (2.460ft), beast found under London’s South Bank in 2017.

It takes weeks for fatbergs to form and are formed when people dump things they shouldn’t down the toilets and sinks.

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