Bucks Council are questioning local water companies and the Environment Agency on the pollution of our watercourses in the county.
They have asked Anglian Water and Thames Water to submit annual reports to the council on progress in reducing discharges into the water course in particular our rare chalk streams.
Their report was presented to the council’s Cabinet yesterday (Tuesday 15 November); its main findings are:
- that the water industry is the single biggest contributor towards poor water quality in the Thames basin. Five of Buckinghamshire’s chalk streams have sewage treatment works discharging treated effluent into them
- that Buckinghamshire’s chalk streams are being polluted by surface water that runs off local roads, carrying pollutants directly into watercourses. These pollutants include decomposing plant and animal matter (humus) and by-products from vehicles such as hydrocarbons, oil, brake dust, tyre fragments, hydraulic fluids, and anti-freeze
- that Buckinghamshire sits across three geographical areas of the Environment Agency meaning it can be extremely challenging for even the council to locate the correct contacts within the Environment Agency with whom to raise queries or concerns, particularly where water quality and contamination is concerned
- that Buckinghamshire residents could benefit from more information about who to contact in the event of a water pollution incident
- that the Rivers Trust, an umbrella group working to improve water quality and advise landowners, currently has no representation in the Great Ouse area
- that there are separate improvement programmes being run by water companies in Buckinghamshire (such as the Thames Water Smarter Water Catchment Programme for the River Chess and Anglian Water separately investing in separate schemes to restore river habitats and improve biodiversity) – but other local catchments would benefit from this work being further expanded in Buckinghamshire
Cabinet has today accepted all of the recommendations in this report including
- asking Anglian Water and Thames Water to submit annual reports to the council on progress in reducing discharges into the water course and improvements to infrastructure in Buckinghamshire
- the Leader of the Council writing to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs over the council’s concerns with the Environment Agency about lack of engagement, the discharge of its statutory functions and its conduct
Councillor Robert Carington is Vice-Chair of the Select Committee and led the review.
He said: “This has been a very important piece of work; it was key that we looked closely at the current arrangements and situation in Buckinghamshire to determine what the council itself can do to hold water companies and the Environment Agency to account. Our job has been to examine this issue very closely and to pull this work into one place; I’m very grateful to Members and officers for their time in getting us to a stage where we can make clear recommendations to the council.”
Councillor Gareth Williams is Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Environment.
He said: “When the Government’s own Environmental Audit Committee concluded that every single river in England is contaminated, it was extremely clear to us we needed to understand what that means for Buckinghamshire’s rivers and chalk streams. This has been a vital piece of work and I thank the Select Committee for their hard work in pulling this detail together.
It is essential we understand the full situation to lobby groups hard on behalf of our residents to improve the quality of our precious watercourses. Our rivers and chalk streams are an essential part of the fabric of Buckinghamshire and their importance cannot be over-stated. It’s a matter of urgency that this work is given priority by water companies and the Environment Agency and that we start to see real change and deliverable solutions to improve water quality in Buckinghamshire.”