Tag Archives: freshwater

Environment Agency launches major investigation into sewage

The Guardian reports water companies are at the centre of a major investigation by the financial and environmental watchdogs after they admitted they may have illegally released untreated sewage into rivers and waterways.

The Environment Agency and Ofwat said they had begun an investigation into sewage treatment works, after new checks led to the admission from the water companies.

This investigation will involve more than 2,000 sewage treatment works, nearly a third of the total number in England and Wales, with any company caught breaching their legal permits liable to enforcement action, including fines or prosecutions. 

England’s rivers, lakes and streams ‘among worst in Europe’ amid concern over sewage and farm pollution

River Wey photo by Malcolm Oakley under creative commons

The Independent reports every freshwater body in England currently fails chemical standards and only 16 per cent are classed as being “in good ecological health”, compared to 53 per cent on average across the EU, according to the Wildlife and Countryside Link, the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, made up of 61 organisations. The report warns that the climate crisis is worsening conditions for England’s “already beleaguered waters”. 

Norfolk’s rediscovered ‘ghost ponds’ offer up trove of long-lost plants

The Guardian reports rewilding projects reveal rare species preserved in buried ancient wetlands. Botanists believe that this will lead to new plant discoveries; seeds can survive for centuries under layers of leaves and mud so once they are given water and exposed to sunlight the plants will grow.

Already, six plants of the endangered wetland flower grass-poly have been found at the edge of an old cattle-watering pond on the Heydon estate in north Norfolk. The species had not been seen in the county since the early 1900s. 

Laws of nature: could UK rivers be given the same rights as people?

The Guardian reports the River Frome murmurs and babbles through the woods and fields of north Somerset. It is popular with anglers and wild swimmers but is often polluted with a cocktail of agricultural runoff, leading to frequent complaints from the public.

In 2018, Frome Town Council tried to pass a bylaw giving part of the river and the adjacent Rodden meadow the status of a person in law. This would establish their right to exist, flourish and thrive, and for the river to flow freely and have a natural water cycle, as well as ensuring timely and effective restoration if they were damaged.

The council and a local charity, Friends of the River Frome, were to be made joint guardians of the river and meadow, tasked with balancing their interests with the health and safety of local people. 

Climate crisis could trigger sewage surge in English rivers, MPs told

The Guardian reports there will be a rise in the scale of sewage discharge into rivers and waterways due to extreme weather events as a result of the climate crisis, MPs have been told.

Nature-based solutions must be a top priority for the government and the water regulator, Ofwat, when it comes to water companies’ investment over the coming decades, MPs heard. By 2050, the English sewerage system would face a 55% increase in water flowing through the network as a result of increased urbanisation and the removal of natural surfaces, which help water drain away.

River Otter flood plain work delayed to protect nesting birds

The BBC reports plans to go ahead with the restoration of mud flats have been put back after concerns were raised by campaigners about the effect on nesting birds. The project would have involved the removal of vegetation on the River Otter estuary in Devon, starting on Tuesday.

The Environment Agency (EA) said the start of work was “being reviewed”. The rescheduling followed involvement from the RSPB and wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham. The RSPB said it supported the restoration scheme, but it was the wrong time of year. 

Raw sewage breaches in UK rivers 10 times greater than watchdog estimates

The Guardian reports the scale of water companies illegally discharging sewage is 10 times greater than the Environment Agency (EA) estimates, MPs have been told

Peter Hammond, former professor of computational biology at University College London, now retired, said his analysis of sewage treatment works found in 2020 alone 160 breaches of permits granted by the watchdog to allow sewage discharges. The EA has only prosecuted 174 cases of illegal discharges in the last 10 years, he said on Wednesday.