New photos show damage in River Itchen below Bakkavor's Alresford Salads factory.
At S&TC we have long been campaigning to stop Bakkavor discharging their salad wash effluent into the headwaters of the River Itchen.
The Itchen is a designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and we fear that the chemicals in their discharge are harming the environment.
Our latest autumn samples of invertebrates and algal growth, from a site just downstream of the Bakkavor factory, reinforces our concern.
Our autumn river bed photos, and samples of invertebrates and algae, taken on 5 October 2018, immediately downstream of the Bakkavor salad washing factory (Alresford Salads), show the Itchen headwaters remain heavily polluted. This is in stark contrast to the condition of the Upper Test.
Excess algal slime demonstrates damage
The bed of the Itchen headwater stream at our sample site is covered in algal “slime”.
This is a short distance downstream from Bakkavor’s salad washing factory’s discharge point.
The bed of the stream should show clear, un-sedimented gravel like this photograph of the Test headwaters at Polhampton taken last Autumn:
Dr Nick Everall of Aquascience has analysed this sinister algal growth. This is what he reports:
“There was extensive area coverage (over 90%) of the river bed area with the thick biological growth or slime which upon microscopic examination was, aside to a bit of chalk and sediment adhesion, entirely composed of filamentous and attached algal and lesser fungal growth…
The dominant and major composition of the biological growth covering metres of the bed of the River Itchen below Alresford Salads was, often filamentous, algae (diatoms, blue-greens and green algae) with some fungal component…
It was typical of organic and nutrient enriched benthic ‘slime’ or sewage fungus’ (Fjerdingstad, 1964 and Hellawell, 1986).”
Invertebrates (or lack thereof)
The invertebrate sample from the Itchen headwaters was devoid of insects sensitive to pollution. There were no mayflies or gammarus.
The associated biometric measurements indicate an impact from pesticides, siltation, nutrient enrichment (phosphates) and organic pollution.
In short, the lack of invertebrates signifies the water quality is extremely poor in general – and exceptionally so for the headwaters of a Special Area of Conservation chalkstream.
The Upper Test sample taken in autumn 2017 was dramatically healthier. There were over 1800 gammarus and two species of mayfly, for starters. The biometrics indicated no impact from siltation, phosphates or organic pollution.
What are we doing about it?
We were so horrified by the invertebrate sample taken in May 2018 from the same Upper Itchen headwater site that we formally notified the Environment Agency (EA) to investigate the problem.
That investigation is continuing; meanwhile we will share our latest findings with the EA, whom we are also fighting to stop Bakkavor discharging its salad wash effluent into the headwaters of the Itchen.
In response, the EA is seeking a variation of Bakkavor’s discharge consent, but progress is painfully slow.
Overall, our data is providing strong evidence for the EA to insist Bakkavor stops pumping its effluent into the river. This is the only environmentally acceptable outcome.
As Nick Measham, Deputy Chief Exectuive of S&TC, summarises:
"It is a nonsense that biocides are discharged into any watercourse, let alone the headwaters of an SAC.
Such chemicals can be highly toxic to aquatic life, negatively impacting the health and abundance of wild salmon and trout in our waters - as well as all the other creatures that live there and together sustain freshwater's delicate ecology.
Has the EA got the courage to say no, or will industry triumph over one of Britain’s natural wonders?"