Nick Measham, Chief Executive of S&TC said:
“The Environment Agency turned 25 years old this month but our rivers will not be celebrating. Despite a quarter of a century of its oversight, the freshwater aquatic environment is still heavily polluted, fragmented and we face a biodiversity crisis with many freshwater species in steep decline or, in the case of the Atlantic salmon, at risk of extinction. We are at a point when business as usual is no longer an option if we are to reverse wilful river damage and habitat destruction”.
S&TC has acknowledged that the agency had come under budget pressures, with funding slashed by about 60 per cent between 2008 and 2017.
Some headline findings from the report…
Currently, the percentage of English rivers reaching good or better ecological status in England is only 14%. That situation has not improved over the last decade. In 2009, 22% of rivers in England had achieved good ecological status.
The EA itself has reported recently that:
- Over 10% of our freshwater and wetland species are threatened with extinction and two thirds are in decline.
- 40% of water bodies are impacted by pollution from rural areas.
- 16% of serious pollution incidents in England are attributed to the agriculture sector.
- In 2020, only 145 river water bodies are at good ecological status.
According to the report, the EA runs a hotline which “aims to provide the public with a way to complain about incidents they see”. However, the majority of complaints to the EA’s incident hotline are not acted upon, let alone result in sanction, and feedback is frequently not provided even when requested.
FOI data reported by Unearthed shows the teams tasked with responding to pollution incidents have seen their numbers decline by 15% since 2015.
The report finds, that despite agriculture being a major contributor to river pollution, farm visits fell from 905 in 2014 to 308 in 2019. Meaning every farm can expect an inspection only once every 263 years.
Read the full report here.