“Campaigners warned  that the clear waters of the Wye, one of Britain’s best-loved rivers, were being blighted by thick green algae blooms linked to poultry production. Many of the intensive chicken farms in the catchment area of the Wye supply Avara Foods in Hereford, which is the third largest poultry producer in Britain and is jointly owned by the American food business Cargill. It is claimed that vast amounts of manure from chicken farms supplying Avara and other food businesses are washed into the Wye, contaminating the water with excessive phosphate levels that fuel the growth of algae blooms…
Cargill has operated in the UK since 1955 and purchased a major poultry processing plant in Hereford, more than 40 years ago. In 2013 it announced a £35m investment in the plant to increase production of fresh chicken, and five years later it combined its fresh chicken operation in the UK with poultry business Faccenda Foods to form Avara. New intensive poultry units – each housing at least 40,000 chickens – sprung up to meet the demand, and between 2013 and 2017 the number of birds in Herefordshire increased from 13 million to 18 million.
Support campaigns for restoring rivers. Allowing rivers to follow their natural course rather than being dredged and straightened helps control flooding and provides a more secure habitat for river wildlife. Cleaning rivers of physical pollutants also helps prevent or limits the affects of flooding – wind blown and carelessly discarded plastic and other rubbish can block inlets and outlets and be a death trap for river wildlife. Cleaning rivers of chemical pollutants enables rivers once more to become vibrant places of biodiversity as well as becoming safe places to bathe!
Clean and biodiverse-rich rivers are rewarding places to spend leisure time and we are increasingly aware of the health benefits of blue spaces. What’s not to like?
Today’s Guardian reported on the rewilding of Swindale Beck: ‘For Schofield, an ecologist who is senior site manager at the RSPB in Haweswater, restoring the natural process to the beck was emotional work. “The stream as it was just looked like a canal, with stone banks and levees built up as time passed from years of dredging and dumping material on the sides. So we had to be quite interventionist ourselves, using diggers, creating a channel, removing spoil. For many conservation projects you do not see the results for a very long time, but with this one, we completed it on a Friday. It rained all weekend and on the Monday when we went to look at the beck, there was just this completely restored river, that curved and meandered and looked like it had been there for ever. It was a really powerfully emotional moment.” Within about three months, the rewards continued as salmon began spawning again in the gravel bed, made possible by the slowing down of the stream and the creation of still pools and shallows. Schofield said the restoration had improved numbers of common sandpiper, kingfishers, dippers and grey herons and increased the diversity of invertebrates in the stream.’
Much of the plastic that ends up polluting the oceans gets there via streams and rivers. And the plastic that ends up in the streams and rivers is either litter that has been thoughtlessly discarded or plastic that has fallen or been blown out of recycling bins. We can help in three ways – firstly not thoughtlessly discarding plastic (which I am sure we wouldn’t). Secondly by picking up litter and disposing of it safely. Thirdly by ensuring that the plastic in our recycling bins is flattened as much as possible and packed (eg stacking similar sized pots or trays together) so that there are no loose pieces that can easily be dislodged. Aim for a neat and condensely packed bin.
Pollution of our water system can begin at home. Only three things should go in the toilet – pee, poo and toilet paper. (Other paper, even things like paper serviettes shouldn’t be thrown down the loo – they are not designed to break down quickly and can cause blocked drains). Wet wipes, cotton buds, sanitary products, sticking plasters, dental floss etc should not be discarded via the toilet. NB You can biodegradable dental floss which can go into the compost bin.
In the kitchen what goes down the drain should be limited to waste water and appropriate amounts of soap and cleaning fluids. Fat and oil (wipe excess up with a paper towel or piece of news paper) and food waste, including coffee grounds, should go into the food waste bin. Food waste and fat can block drains, and chemicals such as white spirit can cause pollution.