Water quality in most English rivers is in bad shape, concludes a British Parliament inquiry committee. According to the committee, there is a “chemical cocktail” of sewage, slurry and plastic, caused by years of cutbacks in water treatment.

According to the commission, water companies regularly discharge untreated or only partially treated wastewater into rivers, although this is only allowed in exceptional circumstances. Many rivers are also polluted by agricultural waste, the researchers say. They cite liquid manure as an example, which can lead to harmful algae growth in surface water.

Wet wipes

Plastic pollution also occurs frequently in English rivers, the Committee concludes, partly through cleaning and hygiene products that contain plastic. Like fats and oils that are flushed down the sink or toilet, these waste streams can cause congestion in the sewer. The researchers say this will eventually create “reefs of wet wipes” in the rivers.

They also mention “mountains the size of blue whales” that have to be removed from sewers. That costs about 100 million pounds a year, they say, converted about 120 million euros.

So-called fat mountains are more common in England, such as in London. In 2018, then England correspondent Tim de Wit made this video about a “monster fat mountain” in the sewer under the Whitechapel district:

The poor water quality has negative consequences for fish and plants in the rivers. Freshwater species such as salmon are at risk, the study says. In 39 of the 42 rivers in which the wild salmon occurs, this species is said to be threatened. “There are other threats to salmon as well, but river pollution is a serious one,” the report said.

Also, in only one river in the country is the water clean enough to swim in, and even there people have become ill, according to the committee. The committee members call on the British government to take measures that permanently improve water quality.


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