England’s filthy waterways: Every river and lake in the country fails to meet quality tests for chemical pollution, Environment Agency report reveals
- Faulty testing in 2016 found 97% of waterways met chemical pollution levels
- New tests prove this is inaccurate as not a single river or lake passed in 2019
- Conservationists are calling for urgent action and increased funding to tackle the issue
Official data from the Environment Agency reveals no river or lake in England is in ‘good health’ due to high levels of chemical pollution.
Figures were last published in 2016 and at the time 97 per cent of surface water was ranked ‘good’ when considering levels of chemicals from households and farms.
However, stricter tests have been developed to help spot signs of chemical pollution in marine animals and exposed the shocking state of our nation’s waterways.
Conservationists are calling for urgent action and increased funding to tackle the issue.
Official data from the Environment Agency reveals no river or lake in Britain is in ‘good health’ due to high levels of chemical pollution. Pictured, the River Eden
While chemical pollution is revealed as ubiquitous, overall health has failed to improve despite a Government pledge that all waters will be in good health by 2027.
Measurements taken last year and published today show only 16 per cent of waters in England received a ‘good’ rating for overall ecological health.
This is the exact same as it was in 2016, a long way from the lofty progress needed to reach the targets set four years ago by DEFRA.
Experts now say the 2027 target is ‘all but unachievable’.
The figures also show that English waters are among some of the worst in Europe, with a European average of 40 per cent surface water bodies in good health.
Scottish rivers and lakes scored 65.7 per cent while almost half (46 per cent) of Welsh waterways and 31 per cent of those in Northern Ireland were deemed ‘good’.
Plastic pollution eaten by seabirds releases ‘potentially harmful’ chemicals within their stomachs, a study has found.
Increasing amounts of plastic are ending up polluting the world’s oceans and beaches — where birds often confuse them for food.
Eaten debris can cause blockages and remain in the intestine for long periods.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: ‘We need to go further and faster on reducing the environmental impact from storm overflows and other sources of pollution including chemicals and agriculture.
‘More needs to be done urgently, and I met with water companies earlier this month to set out the high expectations this government has for our water environment, including in particular chalk streams.
‘These results show we have a long way to go, with a new way of testing for chemicals more accurately reflecting what is in our water environment.
‘While it’s not comfortable reading, this will allow us to plan more effectively to tackle the scourge of pollution.’
The figures come after Environment Agency chief executive Sir James Bevan raised the possibility of reforming the directive.
But environmental groups warn say water health should be a top priority for regulators.
Richard Benwell, chief executive of the Wildlife and Countryside Link coalition of conservation groups, said: ‘Chemicals, sewage, manure and plastic are polluting our rivers, invasive weeds are choking them, and climate change and over-abstraction are drying them out.
‘Urgent investment is needed now to turn our suffering waters into thriving blue corridors for wildlife.’
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