Its legal for sewage companies to discharge raw sewage into our rivers and the sea. That fact alone is difficult to comprehend. Its justified by the Environment Agency as only being allowed after heavy rainfall to stop sewage backing up into homes. Permits are given to authorise these events but unfortunately the activities are not policed or monitored, certainly to any useful degree, and companies pay lip service to the prevailing parameters of the authorization notices. If that seems hard to believe, then maybe learning that, according to a study, 3.5bn litres of sewage is discharged into our waterways annually and the number is rising will make you sit up!
Last week another major incident was reported in Northern Ireland. The Kesh River was exposed to, an as yet unidentified, pollution event resulting in the killing of hundreds, if not thousands, of fish. This isn’t an isolated event. It’s the third in as many months but so far the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) have not identified the cause. It has however been reported that the pollution was not due to an incident originating in a sewage facility. If that turns out to be correct then its likely that the pollution was the result of a deliberate illegal act.
In a statement, DAERA and the NIEA said: “On Wednesday 1st September at 19.45, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency was alerted to a fish kill observed on the Kesh River.
“NIEA officers were immediately tasked to the area and the first officer arrived on site at 20.45. It was immediately evident that a major fish kill had occurred and the investigation began.
"This carried on until 22.30 when it was evident that no immediate source could be traced. NIEA’s investigation resumed on the morning of the 2nd September with DAERA Inland Fisheries staff assessing the impact and Water Quality staff continuing their investigations to trace any possible source.
“At present NIEA have not identified the reason for the fish mortalities, and the investigation continues.
"If any member of the public has any information which can assist the investigation, this can be reported through the incident Hotline 0800 807060 quoting reference WR 8/21/0603, or pass any details through to email@example.com.”
Further research into the level of pollution in our rivers can be found on the website of the Rivers Trust - https://www.theriverstrust.org/key-issues/sewage-in-rivers. It’s not pleasant reading and the map depicting the locations of pollution throughout Britain resembles a shot gun pattern target rather than a few isolated incidents. Worse still, the evidence shows that those charged with policing the waterways have reduced the number of inspections, both on the water and to the inland facilities that have historically been responsible for much of the pollution, which sadly incudes farms, rather than increase them.
What can we do about it? Well, with the government now set to reduce the rules controlling the levels of sewage released into our waters post Brexit, most likely due to the fact that no real investment into the UK’s sewage facilities has occurred since the mid 70’s and they can’t now cope, meaning this is the cheaper of the two options open to the government, it’s difficult to see what. There is a celebrity ally to the cause however, and not one doing it simply for air time. We started this article in Northern Ireland so its fitting that the potential front man for this battle comes from there also. Now living in England and being the former front man for the Undertones, Feargal Sharkey is taking the government to task. Help him. Follow him on Twitter and offer your support. To see him in action just watch his piece to camera on LBC news - https://twitter.com/LBC/status/1435593775141773319?s=20. In the meantime, plague your local MPs and make them take heed. Even if they support your repeated calls just to stop them coming then that’s fine.