Category Archives: News

Water companies illegally dumping sewage in England and Wales’ rivers

The BBC reports water companies have been illegally dumping untreated sewage into rivers in England and Wales, an investigation by BBC Panorama has found. Data analysed by the programme showed some companies have regularly breached the conditions in their permits.

Treatment works are only allowed to put sewage into waterways after wet weather and when they are close to capacity. The water industry says it will invest more than a billion pounds over five years to reduce discharges into rivers. Treatment works are allowed to release sewage into rivers and streams after extreme weather, such as torrential rain, and when they are operating close to full capacity. 

HS2: RSPB calls for probe into tree-felling for high-speed line

The BBC reports the RSPB has called for the felling of trees in the path of the HS2 rail link to be investigated. The bird charity criticised government and HS2 as ecologists launched a legal challenge against licences issued to permit the felling of trees in Jones’ Hill Wood in Buckinghamshire.

It said the felling risked “undermining every environmental commitment” the government had made about HS2. HS2 said it took its “environmental responsibilities seriously”. The legal action is being brought by a member of Earth Protectors. 

Beavers reintroduced to Dorset after 400-year absence

Photo by Pat Gaines under creative commons

The BBC reports a pair of beavers have been reintroduced to Dorset as part of a nationwide trial.

The Dorset Wildlife Trust is monitoring a male and a female beaver in the west of the county. They are being observed by wildlife experts in a large freshwater habitat, with footage captured on night cameras. The species went extinct in the UK 400 years ago, during the 16th Century. 

Climate crisis: UK woodlands and peatlands ‘crucial’ to reaching net zero goal, report says

The Independent reports researchers for Natural England carried out a comprehensive survey of the role different types of natural habits in Britain play in capturing carbon from the atmosphere, looking at forests, grasslands, heathlands, salt marshes and seagrass meadows and how much they store in their soils, sediment and vegetation.

They found that undisturbed woodlands and peat bogs had the highest rates of carbon sequestration, with a hectare of ancient woodland capable of storing the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide each year that would be emitted from 13 plane journeys between London and Rome. A 10-metre deep fenland peat bog can store eight times as much carbon as the equivalent area of tropical rainforest. 

Garden centres ‘failing to stop peat sales’

BBC News reports leading garden retailers are still failing to stop the sale of peat in compost despite pressure from the government and campaigners. The Wildlife Trusts said only one of 20 retailers contacted said it would eliminate peat from its shelves this year.

The restoration of peatlands is a key part of the government’s strategy to mitigate the impact of climate change. Highly absorbent, it also helps with flood prevention.

However, one peat producer told the BBC that since lockdown there had been a surge in interest in gardening. Demand for peat was “unprecedented” and there was currently no viable alternative.

Wildlife haven enlists Goldsmith to fight plan for 3,500 homes

The Times reports a pioneering rewilding project which is a haven for endangered turtle doves and nightingales has won ministerial support for its campaign against plans for 3,500 homes which it says would be catastrophic for wildlife.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, the environment minister, has condemned the proposed development near Knepp estate in West Sussex, which was heralded in the government’s 25-year environment plan in 2018 as a prime example of the kind of wildlife restoration it wanted to encourage.

Goldsmith said: “Knepp is an iconic project and probably the best known rewilding initiative in the country. What they have achieved has attracted international acclaim, and rightly so. It would be a tragedy to allow a major development to undo all that extraordinary work.”

‘Make a memory’: campaigners fear revised Countryside Code lacks bite

The GuardianSky News, and Daily Mail report seventy years ago, visitors to the countryside were warned in rhyme that the farmer would “frown” on “lad or lass who treads his crops, or tramples grass”. Now the revised Countryside Code will encourage the unprecedented number of domestic holidaymakers to “be nice, say hello, share the space” and “make a memory” when they visit parks, coasts, woods and farmland this summer.

The new guidance – the first major revision to the code for more than a decade – asks visitors to stay on footpaths, keep their dogs “under control and in sight”, clear up dog poo, and “take care with BBQs”.

Sewage discharged into rivers 400,000 times in 2020

Photo by Malcolm Oakley under creative commons

BBC NewsThe Guardian, and The Times report water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers in England more than 400,000 times in 2020, according to new figures published by the Environment Agency.

Untreated effluent, including human waste, wet wipes and condoms, was released into waterways for more than three million hours last year. Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said that his organisation was “working actively with the water companies to ensure overflows are properly controlled”.

Environment minister pledges laws to cut dumping of sewage in English rivers

The Guardian, and The Times report the environment minister, Rebecca Pow, has promised to bring in legislation to reduce discharge of raw sewage into rivers.

Pow said that she would be placing a legal duty on government to come up with a plan to cut dumping by water companies by September 2022. Pressure has been growing on water companies and ministers as evidence grows of the scale of the issue and amid increasing evidence of the poor state of rivers.