The Environment Agency is currently investigating more than 50 suppliers that provide supermarkets and other businesses in the UK with salad and vegetables, looking into whether they’re discharging pesticides into rivers and streams around the country.
According to a Guardian exclusive, the environment watchdog inquiry was launched after it took action against salad producer Bakkavor, for washing pesticides into the Upper Itchen, a protected chalk stream, following the submission of evidence by environmental charity Salmon & Trout Conservation.
The UK’s chalk streams provide essential habitats for all sorts of wildlife, but scientists are now saying that these waterways are being badly affected by a range of pollutants from farms, sewage discharges and industry, as well as over-abstraction by water companies.
Freedom of information requests sent in by the conservation organisation revealed that acetamiprid was being washed off produce and going into the river at concentrations above acceptable levels.
This comes after the Environment Agency revealed that just 16 per cent of English rivers had passed tests for chemical pollution. And, for the first time, no river in the country was recorded as having good chemical status, which suggests that pollution from agriculture, chemicals and sewage discharge is having a big impact on water quality.
Conservative MP Charles Walker, chair of the new all-party parliamentary group on chalk streams, observed that salad washing has been concerning for years now, with regards to the impact on chalk streams and other waterways.
He said: “I welcome the agency reviewing these permits. Chalk streams are our barrier reef, our rainforests. Eighty-five per cent of the world’s chalk streams are in England and our stewardship of them over the last 50 years has been lamentable.”
The new environment bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, sets out the UK’s plans for nature after we’ve left the EU, including legally binding targets for the long term that will tackle the issues of water and air pollution, as well as increasing diversity and reducing waste.
A recent iNews report found that some of the country’s most important wildlife has declined by 60 per cent since 1970 – and just 14 per cent of England’s rivers meet the minimum ecological standards.
It’s expected that the forthcoming bill will set out how the country will crack down on water pollution from sewage outflows and agriculture, while prioritising wildlife-rich habitats.
Businesses may well be inspired to start reviewing their own processes and procedures to see if they can become more eco-friendly ahead of the bill being ratified into law – and becoming more water efficient is a great place to begin.
There are various ways in which you can achieve this, ranging from water leak detection and repair to water auditing and water monitoring.