Chemical Pollution

Chemical pollution is one of the main causes of degradation and biodiversity loss in aquatic ecosystems.

But why are chemicals such a problem for salmon, trout and their waters?

More than 300,000 inventoried/regulated chemicals are currently used in industry, household and agriculture - which ultimately end up in our waters.

While European water bodies are contaminated with complex mixtures of ten thousands of chemicals, chemical status is defined on the basis of only 45 substances.

Concentrations of chemicals in the water may not reflect the true burden on river life, as chemicals may accumulate in tissues and be passed up the food chain.

Chemicals can harm river life lethally, where exposure causes direct death, and/or sublethally, where physiological pathways and natural behaviours are disrupted.

The Bakkavor Story

Concerning chemical signatures coupled with low Gammarus numbers and mayfly species richness (identified from our Riverfly Census project) led us to investigate below the Bakkavor salad washing factory on the River Itchen.

The bed of the stream should have shown clear, un-sedimented gravel. Instead the dominant and major composition of the biological growth covering metres of the bed was filamentous algae, with some fungal component.

It was clear from our evidence that the current discharge permits were not fit for purpose to protect the river.

We took this case study on as part of our Water Action project, as we felt it highlighted a national problem. If policy is not stopping deterioration from chemicals on a protected SAC, SSSI river - what hope is there for other rivers?

We were concerned about two things:

The overnight factory wash discharge

The day time salad washing discharge

Bakkavor progress so far


Chemicals - a national problem

We believe that businesses should not be allowed to damage the environment- they should return water in at least the same state as they receive it

Many historic discharge permits, for businesses still operating today, have not been revised and as a result are not fit for purpose to protect our waters.

Current monitoring* covers only a tiny fraction of the chemicals entering our waterways, ignoring biological impacts and mixture effects

SPEAR is a way of calculating chemical impact on rivers by looking at the presence and absence of water invertebrate species. Currently SPEAR is not used in the UK, but proposed boundaries to incorporate it into Water Framework Directive calculations do exist. Using our data, we are encouraging the use of SPEAR nationally in monitoring our watery places for chemicals.

*of priority substance-based chemical status according to the Water Framework Directive (WFD)

Chalkstreams should have their own classification under the Water Framework Directive

Our Bakkavor case study has demonstrated the value of invertebrate data - but for chalkstreams it has highlighted that current designations are not good enough to protect them from chemical damage.

River Itchen damage below Alresford Salads: Autumn 2018 photos

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 […] Read More

River Itchen pollution: Alresford Salads trial chlorine-free cleaning products

Is the end of chlorine-based cleaning products at Alresford salad washing plant finally in sight? Finally, it appears Alresford salad washing plant is planning to stop using chlorine-based cleaning products. This would mean that there would no longer be any products used to wash the site’s equipment that could react to form chloramines, which are […] Read More

S&TC formally notifies EA over River Itchen damage below Alresford Salads

Salmon & Trout Conservation has formally notified (1) the Environment Agency about serious and ongoing damage to the River Itchen, a highly protected Special Area of Conservation (2). S&TC commissioned professional monitoring has exposed extensive decline among important riverfly insects, as confirmed by the Environment Agency’s own data, in an area immediately downstream of Alresford […] Read More

Pinpointing Pesticides – Our national survey now uses water insects to solve chemical puzzle

We are pleased to announce that pesticide fingerprints can now be detected using the Riverfly Census’ analytical tool kit… a massive breakthrough in monitoring water quality for neonicotinoids and other insect killing chemicals Read More

Alresford Salads threaten a struggling English chalkstream

Currently many of our rivers across the UK are impacted by a variety of undesirable inputs.  Influencing the future health of these important waterways is one of our key objectives. We continue to be extremely concerned about a worrying example of pollution by Alresford Salads on the Upper Itchen in Hampshire. Alresford Salads, who process […] Read More

Chlorinated chemicals in our areas of conservation? Just say no!

Chlorinated Chemicals One of our main objectives is to influence the clean-up of rivers across the UK, where many waterways are impacted by a variety of undesirable inputs. We use local issues to bring attention to problems at national level, and one such case is very topical on the Upper Itchen right now. Alresford Salads, who […] Read More

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