Our latest Catchment Adaptation Workshop focused on the topic of Water Quality and featured a fascinating panel of speakers:
Mark Worsfold, South West Water, Director of Asset Management. Mark is in charge of SWW’s infrastructure including its sewage treatment works and storm overflows.
Prof Peter Hammond – Windrush Against Sewage Pollution volunteer. Peter featured on the film Rivercide and has analysed data from seven water companies nationally, identifying more than 3,000 allegedly illegal spills from 58 treatment works in the last 5 years. The River Culm was ranked the 8th most polluted river for illegal sewage spills out of those analysed.
Richard Horrocks – Riverfly survey coordinator and fisherman, who has been monitoring water quality in the Culm for many years.
Dr Holly Pearson – Westcountry Rivers Trust, who manages the data collected from remote monitoring stations on the Culm.
Ross Cherrington – Westcountry Rivers Trust, Senior Farm Advisor
You can watch a recording of the event below, and also see an edited version of the chat which includes many questions! We weren’t able to answer them all in the meeting but our Water Quality Working Group is digging into them and if you’d like to get involved in that group, please just send us an email at hello@connectingtheculm.
Discussion and questions from the Chat
WFD data- as the EA has included persistent chemicals in the environment for the first time in the WFD data it now shows all rivers in England failing for chemicals. But it’s only the long lasting persistent ones, which were not previously in the scope of WFD.
To standardise on rainfall data, could you share a link to the best source? (Met Office?). I have the spill data and want to present this with the rainfall data but want to try and make my presentation uniform with yours. Rainfall data available at: https://meteostat.net/en/
Why are there no legal thresholds for river dissolved O2 etc? I thought this was what the WFD provided? But perhaps we are no longer part of the EU….?!
You can view the HydroVu data Dr Holly Pearson talks about here: https://tinyurl.com/vdukk8e4 https://www.hydrovu.com/#/project-dashboard We are looking to improve the ‘user friendliness’ of this interface – if you’d like to join our volunteer group working on this, please let us know in the chat or via email@example.com
How could I obtain the TDS baseline for The Sid?
How much do the Culm Sondes cost ?
My question builds on Jan’s … how do we set all the baselines for our rivers? The Sid. The Kit, etc. Without a baseline it’s hard to know how the river is doing.
Re TDS baselines – you can see from the sonde data that the level of TDS is fairly stable between rainfall events although it will start to climb during prolonged dry spells – and of course if there is a pollution event. But we should be able to make a good stab at it from regular CSI surveys. The other way is to deploy a TDS sensor (c. £2500) – or a multi-parameter sonde (like the Culm one) at approx. £6500
Temple Street CSO in Sidmouth has been dribbling for months. This was reported to SWW who analysed the water quality and didn’t;t think it was a problem. The EA know about this but nothing is being done – this repurposing. of a CSO to discharge water from an unknown source appears to me to be illegal.
“40% of farms not compliant, after lots of progress” in the Axe is an alarming stat… what needs to happen for everyone to be compliant @Ross? Do you think we’ll see FRFW prosecutions soon?
What if anything can us CSI volunteers do to help our farmers make the changes they need to?
If you have a relationship with the local farmer and you meet them informally just mention if there are any issues then sign post them to WRT or FWAG who may be able to help
I’ve written to Neil Parish MP about Uffculme STW. He passed my concern on to Rebeca Pow. Her reply does not tackle the problem of illegal spillage. It looks to me and Prof Peter Hammond like a white wash!
You can find more information about CSI in relation to the Culm and its tributaries on the CtC website: https://connectingtheculm.com/get-involved/ https://connectingtheculm.com/csi-intro/
People wild swim all year round but I understand SWW only monitor water during what it regards is the ‘bathing season’ i.e.: over the Summer. Is this correct?
Is that an average 20 spills per treatment works per year or an average of 20 across the whole SWW estate?
Can Mark explain how/where SWW are delivering their tree planting target please?
How is Water Fit different to what South west water is already doing through other programmes
Mark what you’re presenting are nice high level commitments for the region, please can you use the time we have left in this event to explain the Culm specific issues especially what Peter Hammond presented (and offered to help SWW analyse) regarding illegal spills? As the director of asset management you are perhaps the best person to respond?
Can SWW explain how it will overcome the deep scepticism people have about its ability to deliver its commitments and its motives for doing so.
I’m a little unsure of how these standards for bathing water are apparently being met given that the Culm, as we’ve heard, suffers a large amount of pollution. Could Mark explain whether this status is a real target or just a PR scheme and if the former, what specific requirements are required for this bathing water standard?
In order re. Axe it is a total nightmare when it rains in the Winter (predominately caused by soil run off) – not aware / can’t think of a “silver bullet” other than reducing stock density and farming the land you farm appropriately (soil type / gradient etc) rather than the farming the acreage available re. C.S.I. sampling I suggest more Winter samples during spate conditions which generally coincide with Salmonid ova deposition and development.
Mark, when will you be releasing data on volumes of untreated discharges and not just duration of spills?
Fatbergs – are these due to lack of routine maintenance?
Mark, why is SWW piloting on the Dart/Tavy? What’s driving that decision?
Why is the end of 2023 the earliest date SWW will commit to installing monitoring of spills in the Kit Brook catchment? Currently no monitoring equipment is in place so you don’t even know if there are spills.
The source of the information summarised above is by The Rivers Trust who monitor data from each water company using data measured by the Environment Agency in 2021.
How come the Culm at Culmstock has started to develop sewage fungus in the last two years if water quality is improving?
Could you please clarify how you intend to maintain excellent bathing water quality all year round. Will there be a significant decrease in discharges of untreated sewage unrelated to heavy rainfall during the non bathing season?
To what extent is sewage off-setting proposed as opposed to actually cleaning up the rivers?
Mark, does SWW have any quantified data on the impact that paving front gardens is having on increased run off volumes and water quality?
Why haven’t SWW have 4 months dirty water capacity at their sewage works like farmers will have to. Dirty water is dirty water.
So when are you going to put in monitoring equipment that does monitor volumes? Lots of things are hard to do but that doesn’t stop the imperative to do these things.
Volunteers watching over our rivers – with Riverfly and CSI are absolutely vital for capturing the impact of sewage discharges! Keep up the good work
Even a calculated measure of volume would be better than duration. if you know the size of the infrastructure and height level at EDM something better than number of hours could be given. or just share the design and let people like Peter create a methodology
Mark mentioned looking at upstream thinking in the Culm, similar to how SWW fund catchment work in the Otter and Axe catchments, is this something SWW are genuinely looking at? my understanding was upstream thinking is solely focused on catchments where SWW abstract drinking water, which isn’t the case on the Culm currently?