River pollution goes unchecked as tests in England drop to 10-year low | rivers

rivers test in England It has fallen dramatically in the past 10 years, with experts warning that it leaves a void in knowledge about the effects of pollution.

Environment Agency data shows that its river tests have fallen from nearly 100,000 samples a year in 2012 to 41,519 in 2021 – the lowest sampling level in 20 years excluding a drop during Covid in 2020.

The dramatic drop in monitoring coincides with EA’s repeated budget cuts, while its outgoing boss, Emma Howard Boyd, said he’s shutting down the agency. of doing vital water quality work.

Dr Barnaby Dobson, an expert in water systems from Imperial College London, said: ‘If you ask what are the biggest risks to water quality, my point is a lack of sampling and monitoring. We can’t tell where we’re failing if we’re not looking.’

“We can’t know the impact on the rivers if we don’t sample any of them. How can we know what are the biggest threats to water quality the country faces if we don’t research the rivers?”

The risk of pollution increases when rivers are low-flowing during drought conditions, as was the case this year.

The lower flow means that concentrations of pollutants such as phosphates and E. coli are much higher in the water flow, raising concerns that the discharges have a much greater negative impact. The last tests were conducted under the EU Water Framework Directive in 2019 showed that the English rivers were in a terrible state, With the river not passing quality tests for environmental and chemical condition.

But since 2019 and Brexit, tests have continued to fall, leaving a void in knowledge about the possible further degradation of rivers.

Indebted report by MPs in the Environmental Audit Committee I found the rivers were suffering from a mixture of pollutants From agriculture, treated and untreated wastewater and plastics.

Dobson He said in a paper published this month about river watershed testing that informal testing schemes were increasingly replacing routine regulatory surveys, such as those for ecological regions, for river sampling. He said that funding for the sampling should be returned to EA.

Nick Meacham, chief executive of the charity Wild Fish, said testing is vital and independence is important for sampling. “Monitoring – carried out by the energy agency, not self-interested parties like water companies – is key to any environmental protection regime,” he said. “No monitoring equals any evidence. Monitoring supports the inspections and enforcement needed to reduce pollution. The EAA’s independent monitoring efforts have diminished significantly over time. Without monitoring, problems go away. We now lack a coherent and comprehensive picture of the state of the freshwater environment in England.”

According to recent data, the main reasons for the failure of rivers to pass environmental and chemical quality tests are pollution from the discharge of treated and untreated sewage and agricultural runoff. Agriculture affects nearly two-thirds of rivers, the water sector affects more than half, and the urban and transport sector affects a quarter.

The report found that the only activity that had the most pervasive impact on rivers was the discharge of treated sewage, which affected 43% of riverine water bodies in 2020. The effects of raw sewage spills by storm flooding contributed to the failure of 12% of River water bodies in standards. .

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