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River pollution in Suffolk branded a 'national disgrace' as motion is passed to tackle issue



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A commitment has been made by Suffolk councillors to investigate what more authorities can do to tackle river pollution, after a report found all of the county’s rivers failed to meet standards.

A motion at Suffolk County Council was passed unanimously which committed to a series of measures.

It came in the week that a report by Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust found that none of the county’s rivers met either Government or Water Framework Directive standards for pollution.

Penny Otton, Liberal Democrat, from Suffolk County Council\'s opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group. Picture: SCC GLDI GROUP
Penny Otton, Liberal Democrat, from Suffolk County Council\'s opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group. Picture: SCC GLDI GROUP

The motion said that the council will write to MPs and DEFRA to ask what more can be done, to work with county farm tenants and the wider agricultural sector on ensuring good practice that doesn’t pollute waters, and investigating further biodiversity efforts to address polluting run-off from roads.

Cllr Penny Otton from the Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group who put forward the motion, said: “Quite frankly, it’s a national disgrace. In the 21st Century, we should not have rivers in Suffolk or even the rest of the country, where people feel it is not safe to go and swim, to paddleboard, to kayak or do fishing.

“We believe that it is time serious action is taking place from all of the authorities that are in charge of our rivers and lakes.

Members of the Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group demonstrate outside Endeavour House over river pollution. Picture: James Sheridan
Members of the Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group demonstrate outside Endeavour House over river pollution. Picture: James Sheridan

“If we don’t deal with it we could end up with sewage discharges into our rivers by 2040.”

Monitoring of water quality is carried out by the Environment Agency and Anglian Water as supplier, and a meeting of Suffolk’s flood risk management board earlier this week heard about measures to monitor and tackle river pollution.

However, the Environment Agency has reported a 63 per cent drop in its funding since 2009 which has impacted on its ability to monitor and deal with sewage discharges, while Anglian Water has the legacy problem of historic combined storm overflows which are not a modern solution to dealing with sewage.

The meeting also heard that agricultural sources were as much of a contributor as sewage discharges, while run-off from roads, modifications of watercourses and historic land uses also had an impact.

Cllr Richard Rout, Conservative cabinet member for the environment and finance, said: “I am pleased that this motion not only recognises the importance of rivers to Suffolk residents, the vital role rivers play in our complex biodiversity networks and how much work still lies ahead in improving their health, but very importantly also commits us to continue to support and engage with other organisations as we have done to date to great effect.”