Raw Sewage In Rivers

Mr Notherone

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While rivers in industrialised areas have recovered to some (and sometimes great) extent, many of those in agricultural areas appear to have seen a significant decline in water quality (and/or the number and size of game fish they support) since the 1960s/70s.

The stark reality is, there's not much point in rejoicing at the news of a salmon being seen in an inner-city river "for the first time in over a hundred years" if several hundred salmon have gone missing from a rural river system during that time.
This is exactly what has happened in many of the South Wales rivers. I grew up next to a fairly short industrial river which was virtually dead when I was a boy. It’s now ‘relatively’ healthy. Past industrial urban rivers like the Sirhowy, Ebbw, Rhymney and Taff are also now ‘relatively’ clean and fish consistently well.

Further west it’s a different picture and similarly on the Eastern border we have the Usk, Wye and tributaries all showing decline. Agricultural rivers are struggling.
 

Hardrar

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While rivers in industrialised areas have recovered to some (and sometimes great) extent, many of those in agricultural areas appear to have seen a significant decline in water quality (and/or the number and size of game fish they support) since the 1960s/70s.

The stark reality is, there's not much point in rejoicing at the news of a salmon being seen in an inner-city river "for the first time in over a hundred years" if several hundred salmon have gone missing from a rural river system during that time.
The issue from agriculture is what we call in the industry:- “diffuse pollution” - not “pollution events”, which are spillages and accidents weather and human related.
This is a gradual leaching of a cocktail of contaminants:- crop protection products- Herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, plant growth regulators, Rodenticides, fertilisers, molluscicide, seed treatments, diesel particulates, all from the arable sector and then additionally from the livestock sector:- manure, insect growth regulators, insecticides, (pour on and oral) anthelmintics, herbicides, milk, silage effluents, plastics, anti microbials (antibiotics) and livestock carcasses. Added to this is the silt and erosion “wash in”that clogs the gravel beds up and buries the redds. This mainly comes from drainage and tractor movements in wet conditions.
There are rules to control all of these, allegedly to a manageable level, but the sum of the parts is incessant on our water catchments, that is generally going unseen to most observers.
River bank management is also pretty much zero now too, to prevent erosion.
The blame lies within a decades long policy of “cheap food”, curried by every past and present administration and allowing the supermarkets to hammer farm gate prices down, which has ended up with an Evermore intensive farming system.
The farmers actually hate it and would love to turn back the clock, but cannot without going out of business.
In the sixties we spent close to a quarter of our income on food, it’s now less than half that- this needs to be addressed and food prices need to more than double, with tighter regulations on food production to control diffuse pollutants. This includes probably a fifty fold plus increase in spending upon the EA. Neither of these will happen sadly, the public would balk at a more than doubling of food prices?
There was little food waste or obesity in the fifties and sixties, as food was just so expensive then,
Salmon farming is all part of the same cheap food cycle.
 

kingf000

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As I posted, its allowed in under exceptional circumstances, there was over 400,000 exceptional circumstances where untreated sewerage was discharged into rivers last year, that seems to be hell of a lot of exception circumstances
You make a valid point. However, as Feargal Sharkey said in his interview in the Sunday Times: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/feargal-sharkeys-circling-so-cut-the-crap-polluters-xfhmltplm
It is easy to read the headlines and point the finger at Water Companies. They are responding to the deluge of clean rainwater that hits the sewage system every time there is heavy rain. If they don't do that, you would probably end up with crap coming up out of your toilet. Yes, you can say that the water companies need to increase their capacity but it makes no sense to have to treat rain water if, as he says, there are alternatives. Better to prevent this in the first place. According to him, since the early 2000's, new builds have had to have separate pipe work for sewage and rain water, but the builders simply combine the two. Far better is to have the rainwater run into soakaways which avoids the deluge, slows down the flow of water into rivers and maintains the underground water level. Yes, it would increase the cost of building the house, but by only a fraction of the total cost of the house.
 

tenet

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Thames Water have been discharging effluent into the River Windrush every day since December 23rd notwithstanding average river levels. My club Water, Darlow, has been unfishable for the whole season due to contamination from the nearby Windrush resulting in 100% fish kill. This on top of restrictions issued in 2020 due to covid so 2 years subs down the tubes.

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bobmiddlepoint

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While rivers in industrialised areas have recovered to some (and sometimes great) extent, many of those in agricultural areas appear to have seen a significant decline in water quality (and/or the number and size of game fish they support) since the 1960s/70s.

The stark reality is, there's not much point in rejoicing at the news of a salmon being seen in an inner-city river "for the first time in over a hundred years" if several hundred salmon have gone missing from a rural river system during that time.

Exactly and it's not just salmon that have gone missing. All species are going missing,, I know rivers that have lost their dace and roach as well as others that have lost trout to say nothing of minnows and bullheads etc. Then of course there all the inverts that have been lost.

Taken across the UK water quality has only gone one way since I first started fishing rivers in the mid 1980's. Anyone can see it.


Andy
 

Mr Notherone

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It is easy to read the headlines and point the finger at Water Companies. They are responding to the deluge of clean rainwater that hits the sewage system every time there is heavy rain. If they don't do that, you would probably end up with crap coming up out of your toilet. Yes, you can say that the water companies need to increase their capacity but it makes no sense to have to treat rain water if, as he says, there are alternatives. Better to prevent this in the first place.
It would be bad enough if water companies only released sewage in the "exceptional circumstances" that the EU directive allowed. The reality is they illegally release untreated or partially treated sewage on a VERY regular basis and have rarely been held to account. The government has presided over an increasingly inadequate water strategy for decades - whilst the water companies have underinvested and payed billions in dividends.
 

kingf000

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Thames Water have been discharging effluent into the River Windrush every day since December 23rd notwithstanding average river levels. My club Water, Darlow, has been unfishable for the whole season due to contamination from the nearby Windrush resulting in 100% fish kill. This on top of restrictions issued in 2020 due to covid so 2 years subs down the tubes.

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I'm not defending the water authorities, but the south and other areas of high population are particularly badly affected. The number of houses in my town have doubled over the last 20 years and the outskirts look like a permanent building site. Lots of house building being approved, but we still have the same sewage plant we had 40 years ago. No one wants a sewage plant built near them, so the sewage has to be piped and the plants built far away on green land. No joined up thinking.
Thirty years ago we had a soakaway built to take the water off our drive and the builders diverted half of our roof water into the soakaway. As Feargal said, all new builds and extensions should have soakaways for rainwater by law to relieve the pressure on the sewage works.
There is also always the possibility of private prosecutions:

 

kingf000

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The two significant causes of river pollution are agriculture and sewage discharge. The regulatory agencies have shown themselves to be most ineffectual at preventing agricultural pollution and then holding polluters to account. As far as water companies are concerned there have been a few successful prosecutions and yet illegal discharges are still a daily event. Since water companies were privatised 32 years ago, there has been a substantial decline in infrastructure capital investment whilst billions are paid in dividends.

To blame the public for using water and sewers is ridiculous. The culprit is successive governments who have presided over this debacle, underfunded the regulators and payed lip-service to the environment.

This week, we find out that the EA is so inadequate that it can now only deal with the most "serious" events. It's pathetic and not fit for purpose. It is also insulting its staff, the majority of which I'm sure would love to be able to do a much better job. I don't think anglers should be apologists for the EA, but rather moan like hell to politicians to address yet another significant failing.

Again not defending water companies, but if you look at the Thames water financial report you will see that they made £226.5M underlying profit on a turnover of over £1B, in company terms not that great a profit. They actually made over a £600M loss after tax and capital investment, having spent over £600M on capital investment and gave no dividend to shareholders. The are also committed to spend £1.2B on upgrading and maintaining sewage works between 2020 and 2025. So they aren't making 'loads of money' and are making huge capital investments. The problem they have is that they inherited a Victorian system that had had underinvestment for decades with ever increasing demand.

 

tenet

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Again not defending water companies, but if you look at the Thames water financial report you will see that they made £226.5M underlying profit on a turnover of over £1B, in company terms not that great a profit. They actually made over a £600M loss after tax and capital investment, having spent over £600M on capital investment and gave no dividend to shareholders. The are also committed to spend £1.2B on upgrading and maintaining sewage works between 2020 and 2025. So they aren't making 'loads of money' and are making huge capital investments. The problem they have is that they inherited a Victorian system that had had underinvestment for decades with ever increasing demand.

I'm not up on corporate finance but TW is owned by Kemble Water Holdings Ltd a consortium of international investors with an amazing array of subsidiaries under its banner including TW. I would imagine with cross subsidies and other accountancy shenanigans things ain't that tough for them especially as they show circa 25% gross profit (in simplistic terms)
 

shropshire_lad

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I believe that if CEO's were held personally responsible for 2nd or subsequent illegal discharges remedial action would soon follow.
This is what I have been banging on about for a while. Fines are one thing but actually get the top people down at pollution sites doing some clean up with the press there. That would focus minds. As it is, by the time a major pollution incident has resulted in a prosecution CEOs and top management have inevitably moved on.
 

Mr Notherone

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Again not defending water companies, but if you look at the Thames water financial report you will see that they made £226.5M underlying profit on a turnover of over £1B, in company terms not that great a profit. They actually made over a £600M loss after tax and capital investment, having spent over £600M on capital investment and gave no dividend to shareholders. The are also committed to spend £1.2B on upgrading and maintaining sewage works between 2020 and 2025. So they aren't making 'loads of money' and are making huge capital investments. The problem they have is that they inherited a Victorian system that had had underinvestment for decades with ever increasing demand.

Why say you’re not defending water companies and then write a paragraph doing so?

Perhaps you are quoting one company figures for one year, I can’t be bothered to check it. It’s also worthless unless you look at the group level and take account of multiple years. 20% profit before tax is not a shabby performance either.

I have looked at all the water companies data amalgamated for the last 30 years and total capital spend in infrastructure fell by about a third whilst dividends were over 70 billion. It’s not good enough to keep apologising for an inherited sewer system. The government has ignored all warnings on the amount of investment needed and has turned a blind eye to water profiteering and incompetence. It’s shameful.

I don’t have a political agenda here or anti-profit / private business ethos. I ran a profitable Pharma company for years.

The water strategy for decades has been a litany of failure.
 
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charlieH

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I believe that if CEO's were held personally responsible for 2nd or subsequent illegal discharges remedial action would soon follow.

Yes indeed, and I think there is precedent for something similar. One of the very earliest legal cases taken forward by the ACA, and one of the foundations of the laws concerning pollution, is commonly known as Pride of Derby v British Celanese, though in fact there were other parties on both sides. I'm not a lawyer, but come from a family of lawyers and must declare a personal interest because the judge was my grandfather. He was a very keen fisherman, though I'm sure that didn't influence his decision (which was subsequently upheld in the Court of Appeal by Lord Denning among others - also a fisherman!). Injunctions were issued against the polluters, one of which was the Corporation of Derby, and as I've always understood, this meant that Mayor of Derby himself, together with the Aldermen and various others, were personally bound by those injunctions to stop the pollution the river from the sewage works that was owned by the City of Derby. If they breached it they could have been jailed for contempt of court - which would be a fairly effective deterrent, I'd have thought.

I guess it's more difficult where the polluter is a company, but if there was, for example, repeated pollution from a farm, I wonder whether it would be possible to get a similar injunction against the farmer personally?

 

kingf000

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Why say you’re not defending water companies and then write a paragraph doing so?

Perhaps you are quoting one company figures for one year, I can’t be bothered to check it. It’s also worthless unless you look at the group level and take account of multiple years. 20% profit before tax is not a shabby performance either.

I have looked at all the water companies data amalgamated for the last 30 years and total capital spend in infrastructure fell by about a third whilst dividends were over 70 billion. It’s not good enough to keep apologising for an inherited sewer system. The government have ignored all warnings on the amount of investment needed and have turned a blind eye to water profiteering and incompetence. It’s shameful.

I don’t have a political agenda here or anti-profit / private business ethos. I ran a profitable Pharma company for years.

The water strategy for decades has been a litany of failure.
I'm not an accountant and have only looked at the latest report which I hope heralds the future. My reading of the dividends paid in the past was that it was dividends plus interest paid on loans made to the parent companies. The amount of debt to the parent companies seems eye watering but is little different from the debt that, say Manchester United have that the owners borrowed from themselves to finance the purchase. I'm afraid that is capitalism and if the country keeps voting in such extreme pro-capitalist governments, nothing will change.
As you ran a profitable pharma company, you will know that this behaviour is not restricted to the water companies. It is only the massive fines that big pharma companies have faced in the US that has just about made them think about reconsidering their less than perfect practices.
 
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Mr Notherone

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I'm not an accountant and have only looked at the latest report which I hope heralds the future. My reading of the dividends paid in the past was that it was dividends plus interest paid on loans made to the parent companies. The amount of debt to the parent companies seems eye watering but is little different from the debt that, say Manchester United have that the owners borrowed from themselves to finance the purchase. I'm afraid that is capitalism and if the country keeps voting in such extreme pro-capitalist governments, nothing will change.
As you ran a profitable pharma company, you will know that this behaviour is not restricted to the water companies. It is only the massive fines that big pharma companies have faced in the US that has just about made them think about reconsidering their less than perfect practices.

I agree that private industry unchecked will rarely act for public good - which is precisely why I blame successive governments for not enforcing adequate investment and regulation. You will know that the pharma industry along with aviation, are perhaps the most highly regulated industries on the planet. The management of our water resources (supply and disposal) ought to attract equal attention, but it hasn't. As usual we get what we pay for and we simply haven't paid enough.
 

kingf000

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I agree that private industry unchecked will rarely act for public good - which is precisely why I blame successive governments for not enforcing adequate investment and regulation. You will know that the pharma industry along with aviation, are perhaps the most highly regulated industries on the planet. The management of our water resources (supply and disposal) ought to attract equal attention, but it hasn't. As usual we get what we pay for and we simply haven't paid enough.
I agree, but blaming the water companies is like shooting the messenger. There are a huge number of good, honest people who work hard for these companies, many who are members of fishing clubs, who are simply collateral damage. I see the blame fair and square with the politicians. In 1978 Margaret Thatcher privatised the water companies and her big problem was that she thought everyone was much better than they are, doing things for the public good. She sold off an infrastructure, that even then needed a huge amount of investment, to companies, often foreign, who were in it to make 'loads of money' and didn't give a s**t about us or our environment, without putting in place the checks to curb their greed nor to ensure the investment needed. This problem has just got worse with the lack of investment and increase demand. As you say, without good regulation private industry will not act for the public good. Successive governments with non-interventionist policies have done nothing. I did say that the Thames water recent report is bullish about the future investment, but what I didn't realise was that they don't seem to have enough revenue to fund this, so the money will, presumably, come from more borrowing from the parent company that means more interest to be paid in the future. Unfortunately the alternative of nationalisation doesn't work because governments work on short term time frames whereas utilities such as this needs long term vision, money not turned on and off at the whim of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The trouble is that capitalism is like the covid virus, you put checks in place and they mutate to get round those checks. The pharma industry is now very well regulated and has been for a very long time in terms of quality of product, but that still didn't stop them from finding holes in the regulations that allowed them to unscrupulously exploit markets to sell more of their products. That still happens, but they've got much more clever at doing it, for example designing and running clinical trials to enhance any small advantage their product may, or often may not have. The single dose J&J vaccine is a recent example!
 

Paul_B

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I can't get over that some on here think the 400,000 sewage discharges into rivers a year is ok, I think I ought to sit back and listen until to the expurts on shi# give the answer why.
 

kingf000

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I can't get over that some on here think the 400,000 sewage discharges into rivers a year is ok, I think I ought to sit back and listen until to the expurts on shi# give the answer why.
I can't imagine anyone on here thinks this is acceptable. Differences are in who is responsible and what to do about it. Its like if a dog poops on the pavement, who is responsible? The dog who is only doing what you'd expect it to do? the owners not doing their civic responsibility? or those responsible for upholding the law? Like drink driving and wearing seat belts. When they eventually passed the laws, people only abided by them when the laws were rigorously enforced, unlike the ban on using mobile phones which is too often ignored and a farce.
With the sewage discharge, the current law is too lax and even that law isn't enforced strongly enough. I think everyone agrees that the law needs to tightened and if a company illegally discharges sewage, the parent company, not the water company, should be fined at least 1000x the cost of the damage done and be forced to quickly put right the damage otherwise further much more punitive measures will be taken, as would a second offence. It is the parent company that determines the budget the water companies have, not the water companies. Fining the water company means that it just has less money to invest in improvements and would need to borrow more from the parent company. As I see it, the worry is that all this would kill the cash cow and the parent companies would just pull out, so all the water authorities would go bankrupt leaving us well and truly in the shi#.
However, we also need to consider the situation the water companies now face, admittedly some of it their own making, face up to reality and as Feargal says, do other things necessary to protect our rivers.
 
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Al F

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Not sure if this is the correct place to post this but here goes.Reported to Sepa raw sewage going into a small burn that later enters the river Irvine the other day.The sewage spill got stopped after i reported it.But as usual no consequences to Scottish water.(so it will continue to happen in future)But came across a video about the White Cart pollution.Seemingly pollution isn't only pissing off fishers but also Kayakers.Real discusting conditions.The guy is quit funny.

Disgusting 🤢. How are people allowed to do that
 

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