16th September 2020

We have an amazing and vitally important network of beautiful rivers and waterways in the Colne Valley, and the Park’s River Rangers play a crucial role in keeping them in good condition. Our project manager for rivers, Chloe Crompton describes the Rangers as the heroes of our waterways: their work includes carrying out essential riverfly surveys to help us monitor the health of the rivers, and they are often the first to spot and report any signs of pollution.

This is more important than ever – obsolete sewerage systems are often unable to cope when there has been heavy rain, and this leads directly to pollution entering our rivers. There are also many pollution incidents caused by misconnections between buildings and  rivers, toxic water run-off from roads, and contamination from agricultural chemicals, to name just a few challenges. At times it can feel as though our rivers are in a permanent state of crisis.

Pollution incidents in the Colne Valley Park from a range of sources including sewage, road run off with oil, litter and sediment, killing wildlife and reducing water quality.

Unfortunately, whenever there is heavy rain, water companies are legally allowed to release raw sewage into local rivers. This is done to free up capacity in many out-of-date sewerage systems to cope with storm conditions.  It represents a very significant problem – sewage pollution can often kill water wildlife, and can make stretches of waterway extremely unpleasant and hazardous.

With obsolete systems and a steady increase in population, water companies are trying to find solutions.  Thames Water is building a colossal sewerage tunnel – the Thames Tideway – which will transform its ability to handle waste and water, and in Watford projects are under way to improve treatments and storage. The companies also work with volunteers to monitor sources of pollution and trials for these ‘outfall safaris’ have taken place across London. Training is currently being organised for volunteers, with plans to implement more of the project next Spring, which will also benefit the Colne Valley Park.

Although there are some solutions on the horizon, they have not arrived quickly enough for the health of local rivers to be maintained. We feel much more needs to be done. There is also worrying news that the Environment Agency has endorsed a proposal that could actually weaken the Water Framework Directive, which grades the cleanliness of all water in our river basins.

The good news is that many of the pollution incidents pictured were reported and dealt with, helping to restore the health of the river.

Read more on a recent article from the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/aug/19/environment-agency-chief-backs-plan-to-water-down-river-cleanliness-rules-james-bevan

If our rivers are to have a clean future, we really do need local support. If you would like to help, please: –

  • Report any pollution incidents to the Environment Agency – it is quick and easy – http://apps.environment-agency.gov.uk/contact/  Please also report this to the Colne Valley Fisheries Consultative  https://cvfc.org.uk/pollution/pollution1.php (on the map, click on New Report black box and then zoom on to the correct location). Logging the incident with the CVFC really helps, as it is an important source to update local river users (e.g. anglers and boaters) and is a crucial log of evidence for further action.
  • Check your local river after rain for signs of sewage, pollution, blockages or any other problems.
  • Volunteer as a River Ranger https://www.colnevalleypark.org.uk/river-rangers-project/
  • Help outfall safari in spring 2021 (follow our Facebook and Twitter pages, to stay in touch with all volunteering opportunities or sign up to our newsletter on the Home page).
  • Consider supporting us to improve and protect the Park by becoming a Colne Valley Park Friend https://www.colnevalleypark.org.uk/who-champions/trust-friends/
  • Ensure your rubbish is put in a bin; if the bin is full, please take it home with you (rubbish is often blown into rivers, polluting them and harming wildlife.

Together we can all do a bit to support the wildlife and biodiversity of the Colne Valley Park and help “Keep the Colne Valley Park beautiful”, for future generations.

You can read more about the subject here:

https://www.theriverstrust.org/what-we-do/how-healthy-are-our-rivers/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/01/water-firms-raw-sewage-england-rivers

http://www.riverchessassociation.co.uk/news/83/57/Sewage-Pollution-Continues.html – sewage in the River Chess, part of the Colne Valley catchment.

There are several techniques available to help reduce the effects of river pollution. Once an issue has been reported, sand bags, for example, can be placed around a polluting outfall, removing pollutants by effectively filtering the water as it passes through them.