Despite evidence from at least eight sources, the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency says “It’s wrong to suggest that the state of England’s rivers is poor”
The Financial Times recently reported that only 14% of rivers in England met the minimum “good status” standards as defined by the EU Water Framework directive according to an Environment Agency report in 2018. In 2009 almost 25% did so. Water quality has deteriorated since 2010 when the Environment Agency handed responsibility for pollution monitoring to the nine large water and sewage companies in England.
Evidence supporting their report comes from the World Wildlife Fund, Windrush rivers campaign, Fish Legal, Marine Conservancy, European Environment Agency, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Sewage Free Seas. It was quoted in England’s rivers: toxic cocktail of chemicals, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and untreated waste.
Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, replied in a letter to the FT, “It’s wrong to suggest that the state of England’s rivers is poor (“Blighted by pollution”, The Big Read, June 13)”. He continued:
Water quality is now better than at any time since the Industrial Revolution thanks to tougher regulation and years of hard work by the Environment Agency and others.
Rivers that were so polluted that they were severely biologically damaged two decades ago are now thriving with wildlife such as otters, dippers and mayflies returning.
Over the past 20 years EA teams have taken more than 50m samples to monitor water quality around the country. The EU’s water framework directive means that the failure of one test can prevent a river from achieving good ecological status overall but this often does not tell the whole story.
During the last round of testing, 76 per cent of the tests used to measure the health of rivers were rated as good, and last year 98 per cent of bathing waters at 420 locations passed tough quality standards, compared with less than a third in the 1990s.
The EA has also required water companies to install new monitoring systems on combined sewer overflows (CSOs). By March next year more than 11,500 CSOs will be monitored as the first phase of this work is completed
It is not true that the EA simply relies on the water companies to tell us what they are discharging into watercourses. We carry out our own monitoring of rivers to ensure we have independent evidence and we regularly inspect water treatment plants and sewage works. If companies are failing to abide by the law or the terms of their permits we will take action to ensure that they do, up to and including prosecution.
Since 1990, the water industry has invested almost £28bn in environmental improvement work, much of it to improve water quality. I agree that there are still too many serious pollution incidents and we have called for tougher penalties for water companies where they are shown to be at fault.
In the past three years we have brought 31 prosecutions against water companies, resulting in more than £30m in fines, and we will continue, alongside the other water regulators, to act to ensure that people, wildlife and the environment are protected.
The agencies quoted are unconvinced and the FT asked earlier this month: Can England’s water companies clean up its dirty rivers?
It noted that the concerns over river pollution come at a time when the water industry is under fire for paying executives and shareholders lucrative rewards while raising customer bills and failing to stem leakage and ended: “The failures mean that three decades after the regional state-run monopolies were handed to private companies free of debt, and with a £1.5bn grant to invest in environmental improvements, the Labour party is calling for renationalisation of the water companies that are now saddled with debt of £51bn”.
Since this article was written, Southern Water — supplier to Kent, Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Sussex — has been required to pay what amounts to a £126m penalty over five years for letting untreated waste leak into rivers between 2010 and 2017, and trying to hide what happened.
Earlier this month Lesley Docksey wrote in Global Research about “the sneering, negative and arrogant campaigning by Westminster via the Better Together campaign”. She continued:
That didn’t go down too well so they brought in Gordon Brown to do his patriotic bit, which included talking about how many Scots had fought and died in the UK’s wars:
“We fought two world wars together. And there is not a cemetery in Europe that does not have Scots, English, Welsh, and Irish lying side-by-side. And when young men were injured in these wars, they didn’t look to each other and ask whether you were Scots or English, they came to each others aid because we were part of a common cause.”
Lesley comments: “Sorry Gordon, but many Canadians, Australians, Asians and Africans, all remnants of our Empire’s past, also fought in that common cause, since when they gained their independence. To use dead and injured young Scots for pro-Union campaigning is, as one person put it, “repugnant”, particularly considering the centenary of the outbreak of WWI, the war that was to end all wars; even more so now, as British MPs have just voted to start bombing Iraq – again”.
Lesley added that Scotland is and always has been a proud nation that has been used and abused for far too long by its greedy southern neighbour, aided by its own land-owning elite see Andy Wightman’s book The Poor Had No Lawyers.
But she also wanted the Yes vote to win for the sake of the rest of the United Kingdom, hoping that it would stir everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland into doing something about the Westminster bubble that runs and ruins our lives, unless of course we are corporate, rich or large land owners or, in many cases, all three:
“An independent Scotland could have given us a different and fairer vision for all our futures” . . . My hopes were high but there it was, this unbelievable vote to stay tied to Westminster, not England but Westminster. . .
“But it was not long before the accusations of electoral fraud surfaced.
“It started with grainy videos on YouTube, showing official counters doing odd things with the ballot papers. Stories emerged of people at polling stations being told that someone using their name had already voted. Children had been registered to vote.
The police “were investigating”, while Westminster pooh-poohed it all.
“A small and angry petition was launched by Change.org. First addressed to Alex Salmond it is now going to his Deputy Nicola Sturgeon, and is approaching 100,000 signatures. And yet more has emerged of the odd and dishonest practices that have appeared to capture the No result so wanted by Westminster. Among them are:
- Ballot papers with no identifying marks on the back (illegal)
- Ballot boxes from polling stations delivered to counting centres in private cars by only one person (illegal)
- Postal ballot papers apparently being sent to England first
- Pro-union people being allowed to open and inspect postal votes several days before the referendum (illegal)
- And there were no exit polls.
“Polls are not very accurate, particularly those published by pro-Union media . . .
Exit polls are. They are conducted outside the polling stations and researchers ask people coming out how they have voted. In the space between the polling stations closing and the counting of votes completed, exit polls give a fairly accurate picture of what the result will be.
“But the media, particularly the BBC and ITV, were asked not to conduct exit polls. That fact alone convinces me that the Scots have been robbed of their independence. And Westminster should hang its head in shame. More, it should be investigated by the police”.
“Not satisfied with stealing most of the Highlands for the shooting of deer and grouse, they’re now stealing the land from under the feet of 80% of the Scottish population. Of course Westminster had to have the No vote. For in the same month as the referendum they started selling fracking licences to energy firms that will cover most of central Scotland, including Edinburgh and Glasgow. And beyond, though I doubt it will touch the precious sporting estates. England did far too well out of Scotland’s North Sea oil. Now it wants their fracked gas.
“But then, where the British elite are concerned, Scotland has only ever been a source of shooting and money. And of course all those young men who join the military because life on the streets of Scotland’s cities under the current regime offers little else in opportunity”.
Later reports about fraud:
FT letter: 16.1.12
The doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty is an English tradition, not British. In Scotland the people are sovereign, and parliament their delegated representative.
Alyn Smith, SNP Member of the European Parliament for Scotland
The FT [22 Oct] reports that Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, announced that the independence referendum could include a second option, offering full fiscal autonomy.
Mr Salmond said such fiscal responsibility was a legitimate proposal that could allow Scotland to control its own resources, introduce competitive business tax, and fair personal taxation.
But was not good enough, because even with economic powers:
- Trident nuclear missiles would still be on the River Clyde
- Scotland could still be forced to spill blood in “illegal wars” such as Iraq
- and still be excluded from the councils of Europe and the world.