Pollution tracker: 7 of the worst water pollution incidents this summer

ENDS’ pollution tracker logs some of the worst pollution incidents taking place across the UK. This summer update includes reports of pig carcasses in river bathing spots, and a sewage leak which closed 11 beaches for a week.

River bathing with pig carcasses 

In June, the Environment Agency was accused of ignoring a number of pig carcasses which had been dumped in a Norfolk river at a popular bathing spot. Children swimming in the river Thet discovered the butchered pig parts when they stood on what “felt like dead bodies”, according to a local conservation ornithologist.

Sewage leak closes 11 Margate beaches for a week 

Utility firm Southern Water said the cause of a sewage release which saw the closure of 11 beaches in Margate was a lightning strike on one of its pumping stations, and recent heavy rainfall. It took a week for Thanet District Council to be able to lift the advice that the public not enter the sea or area of beach below the highwater mark. The incident saw approximately 200 protesters taking to the streets in Margate. 

Thousands of fish killed in Northern Ireland

Thousands of fish were thought to have been killed along a 5km stretch of the river Aughlish in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Species including brown trout and juvenile salmon were affected. Described locally as a “disaster”, samples were taken from a "suspected agricultural source" and submitted for laboratory analysis, according to the Loughs Agency - a cross-border body which exercises a legal remit for conservation, protection and development. 

England’s only river bathing site found to have extremely high levels of sewage present

Very high levels of harmful Escherichia coli (E. coli) and intestinal enterococci were recorded by the Environment Agency at England’s only designated river swimming spot on the river Wharfe in Ilkley, it emerged in August. The bacteria are known as faecal indicator organisms because they signify the presence of sewage or manure in the water. The news followed frequent reports this summer of people falling ill after playing in rivers.  

‘Agri-chemical leak’ in Scotland wipes out scores of fish

In May, a chemical leak from a source described by the Scotland Environmental Protection Agency as an “agri-chemical” killed hundreds of fish at Ceres Burn, Fife. Locals had raised the alarm after large numbers of dead fish were spotted in the waterway that runs through the village. Three months on from the spill in August, residents in a nearby village were still being warned of hazards.

Hartlepool swimmers found themselves surrounded by ‘rafts of toilet tissue’ and ‘pads’ 

Open water swimmers claimed they found themselves “swimming through large quantities of toilet tissue, pads and various other items” in March at Seaton Carew beach off Hartlepool. A chemical toilet found on the beach was believed to be a potential source of the waste, but Northumbrian Water also said the sewage could have been brought in by the tide from a past weather event which required the use of storm overflows. 

Fears of ecosystem destruction in Cornwall

An investigation was launched after more than 500 dead fish were removed from a river in Cornwall, downstream from a cheese factory. Witnesses reported the Environment Agency as picking up hundreds of dead fish, leading to fears a whole ecosystem could be destroyed, according to local press.