ONE the cleanest rivers in the UK is being hit with a deadly cocktail of phosphorus and sediment that is destroying vital insect life.

A three year study by the Salmon & Trout Conservation on the famous Hampshire Avon found a staggering 52 per cent decline in insect life plus over 60 per cent of sites showed a worrying chemical footprint.

Chief executive Paul Knight revealed: “Phosphorus and sediment do occur naturally in rivers in small amounts, but in excessive quantities are lethal to water insects.

“They promote algal growth, which chokes the river of life and negatively impacts egg development of invertebrates through suffocation.

“We believe these stressors are responsible for the shortage in these essential insects.

“The Environment Agency have similarly demonstrated that there is too much phosphorus in the river from their own monitoring.

“Excessive quantities of phosphorus and sediment can be caused by many things, including fertilisers, septic tanks, road run-off, loose soil from farming practices, dust, dirt, and sewage.

“Indeed, the Amesbury and Ratfyn Sewage Treatment Works have had an increasing upward trend of phosphorus in their final effluent of 2012-2017 data, which we suspect is a large contributory factor.

“Overall, the Hampshire Avon ranked No.1 in terms of health and vitality in our 2015 Riverfly Census, now in 2018 it has significantly declined and taken a turn for the worst,” he concluded.

Former barbel record holder and water quality campaigner Ray Walton knows the Hampshire Avon very well indeed.

Ray warned: “You cannot see the chemical pollutants and pesticides in the river water.

“It may look ‘gin clear’ and ‘clean’ on the Hampshire Avon and other rivers, but they are there and hidden.

“The EA know it and the water and sewage companies know it, but very little is done to remove them or prevent them entering rivers and streams.

“The Avon is probably one of our UK’s better quality rivers in most sections though, but the sad thing is that majority of other UK rivers are much worse than the Avon,” added Ray.

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