Rise of the zombie pollutants

Climate change is stirring up historic contaminated sediments from England’s rivers and little is being done to clean them up, as Rachel Salvidge discovers

River Tamar in Devon has a legacy of contamination, particularly from its mining past. Photograph: Helen Hotson/Alamy Stock PhotoIn the grainy sediments at the bottom of England’s rivers lurk some nasty substances, and they are not staying put. The country’s industrial past combined with heavy urbanisation has contaminated river sediments with metals such as lead, zinc, cadmium, copper, arsenic and tin – and there are also concerns around polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), pesticides, petroleum hydrocarbons and other persistent organic pollutants.

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