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English rivers do not pass pollution tests

  • English rivers do not pass pollution tests

Last week the Environment Agency (EA) updated information about water bodies in England which reveals only 14% of them are in good ecological status, while none of them are in good chemical status, informs The Guardian. The results are released under the EU Water Framework Directive, which sets objectives for the ecological and chemical status of water bodies across Europe.

The last time data was published in 2016, 97% of rivers were assessed to have a good chemical status, but the testing standards have changed since them, becoming stricter. The EA noted improved monitoring, including substances in fish and shellfish, could have led to the findings where no rivers achieve good chemical status.

In order to achieve an overall good health designation, rivers have to achieve both a good ecological status and a good chemical status. None of the 4,600 rivers, lakes and other waterways evaluated by the EA were rated as good on both standards. The main sources of pollution impacting water quality in rivers are sewage discharges, as well as chemical discharges from industry and agricultural run-off.

The data indicate the UK is off track to meet the government’s goal in its 25 year environment plan: “improving at least three quarters of our waters to be close to their natural state as soon as is practicable.” In fact, the state of English rivers has not improved since 2016. Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the EA, has said: “Water quality has plateaued since 2016, which isn’t good enough. Today just 14% of our rivers are [rated good]. To get where we want to be everyone needs to improve how they use water now and that means water companies, farmers and the public.”

Meanwhile, environment minister Rebecca Pow reacted to the water quality data saying urgent action was needed to reduce sewage discharges and address agricultural and chemical pollution. Earlier this month, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) established a new taskforce to address the issue of untreated sewage discharges via combined sewer overflows.

Dr Janina Grey, from the Salmon and Trout Conservation, blamed the bad water quality in England on a lack of political will and investment, and noted English rivers have the worst quality in Europe, also worse than the quality of rivers in Scotland and Wales, where 65.7% and 64% of rivers, respectively, are in good health.

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