Sewage, slurry and plastic in English rivers ‘endangering public health and nature’

A cross-party parliamentary group has said England’s rivers are filled with a “chemical cocktail” of sewage, agricultural waste and plastics, which endanger public health and nature.

In a new report published on Thursday, the Environmental Audit Committee said only 14% of English rivers meet good ecological status.

It said that “outdated, low and inadequate monitoring” has made it difficult to make a full overview of the health of rivers and that until the passage of the Environment Act last year, there was a “lack of political will” to make improvements. water quality.

Some of the issues raised by the group include monitoring of river quality that does not identify microplastics, persistent chemical pollutants or antimicrobial resistant pathogens flowing through rivers.

Other concerns of the committee include plants, invertebrates and fish being suffocated as a result of a build-up of high levels of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen from sewage and animal waste, and the extent of sewage discharge, water by misreporting and large spills. companies.

In its report, it said cleaning and sanitation products containing fats, oils and greases, and plastics are also causing problems for drainage systems – while single-use plastic sanitation products are clogging drains and sewage works.

Its recommendations include urging for regulatory action, water company investment and cross-catchment cooperation to restore rivers to good ecological health.

The committee says OffWat should examine its powers to limit the payment of bonuses to water company officials until the permit violations stop and the Environment Agency should consider creating an online platform where scientists can use water. upload your data at the quality of

Philip Dunne, chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: “Rivers are nature’s arteries and must be protected. Our investigations revealed several failures in water quality monitoring, governance and enforcement. Over a very long time. Government, regulators and the water industry have allowed the Victorian sewerage system to succumb to increasing pressure.

“Today, we are calling on these relevant bodies to come together and develop appropriate systems for the future. Monitoring mechanisms need to be reviewed, enforcement needs to be intensified, and even Public awareness also needs to be promoted about what can and can’t be flushed down the drain. Is.

The committee noted that due to ‘outdated, under-funded and inadequate monitoring’ it has become difficult to make a complete overview of the health of rivers.

“To deliver real change and improve the condition of our rivers, a wide range of stakeholders, including the government, regulators and water companies, must come together. The Environment Act signaled the first welcome sign of political will to tackle the issue. I hope this marks the beginning of government regulatory and anti-polluting action to improve the condition of our rivers so that everyone can enjoy it.”

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said the government welcomes the report and is “moving further and faster than any other government to protect and enhance the health of rivers and seas.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “EA has launched a major investigation into possible unauthorized spills in thousands of sewage treatment works, with safe objectives of more than £137 million since 2015 for pollution incidents and to increase their surveillance on water companies.” and reporting so everyone can see what’s going on. We’re also working with farmers to support eco-friendly farming that doesn’t harm water quality.

“Everyone must understand the scale of the challenges and the investment required to fix things. We welcome the recommendations of the EAC and will respond in due course.”

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