ANGLERS are being encouraged to help stop raw sewage entering rivers by filming any spills that they see when out on the bank.

Underwater filmmaker and keen angler Mark Barrow is co-ordinating pollution evidence footage from around the country to produce an interactive map to illustrate how serious and widespread the problem is.

Mark, who filmed England’s biggest pike at North Yorkshire’s Wykeham Lakes, hopes to have the map on a website up and running this year.

The 49-year-old landscape gardener from Wetherby, West Yorkshire, explained all to Angler’s Mail…

“Sewage entering the rivers is a national problem, and it does not help that some of the sewage network is outdated,” said Mark. “Our rivers should be fit for purpose for the 21st century.

“The fact is they are in a state, only 14 per cent being healthy, and that is unacceptable.

“There are a growing number of groups around the country campaigning about river pollution, especially sewage, although that is far from the only source.

“I am involved in a campaign on my local River Wharfe at Ilkley, where we have been sampling the water for the sickness-causing coliform bacteria upstream and downstream of sewage treatment works.

“I collected some of the samples while wearing diving gear. Believe me, it’s not a pleasant experience having sanitary towels and used condoms drifting by you.

“Concentrations of the bacteria are normally quite low upstream, but downstream they are very high, reflecting discharges from the Ilkley treatment plant and from treatment plants downstream.

“The problem is caused not only by the intermittent spills of untreated sewage that occur in wet weather, but also from the treated effluent that flows continuously.”

Have you captured pollution evidence on video? Videos should be emailed to Mark on: He is looking for 30-second clips of slow, steady footage.

Angler and cameraman Mark Barrow is collatiing pollution evidence and wants videos to show the scale and distribution of the problem.

Angler and cameraman Mark Barrow is collating pollution evidence and wants videos to show the scale and distribution of the problem.

Shocking sewage truth

The Environment Agency permits water companies to discharge untreated waste from a combined 15,700 sewage overflows into rivers during extreme weather conditions, according to World Wildlife Fund figures.

But their analysis shows that the overflows are discharging sewage far more often than they should be.

A recent Channel 4 documentary revealed that pollution evidence from 2018 suggesting there was an astonishing 140,000 legal spills, lasting a total of 900,000 hours.

Just 14 per cent of rivers are rated as Good under the EU water framework directive, which provides a baseline quality for the health of wildlife and habitats in inland waters.

But experts think that this figure is unreliable, as it is based on spot checks, which in some cases take place only four times a year.

And latest official figures show 1,863 unlawful river pollution incidents by water companies in England over 12 months – but not one was taken to court. 

Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the EA, said: “Water quality absolutely needs to improve, but we also need to recognise that it is a complex combination of action that will allow it to.

“I am very clear that it is something that we need to continue to apply urgency and effort to.

“We need to make sure there is adequate funding and resources in order to reach higher standards.

“Those are the discussions that we will need to have with Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs),” she added.

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