River Pollution in the Trent Valley

When Roger Grainger came along to the Swan Hotel on Tuesday 12th October to talk to us about "River Pollution in the Trent Valley" he certainly enlightened us! After spending 25 years in 'water control' he knew all the questions and most of the answers concerning the work of the Environment Agency.

Their logo appropriately incorporates symbols for air, land and water since his fellow chemists and biologists are responsible for monitoring a great variety of incidents above and below the ground within the Midland Region formerly controlled by the Severn - Trent Water Authority. The Agency now operates eight regions altogether with 9,000 staff and a budget of millions from Bristol with four guiding principles involving the enforcement of regulations and prosecution of defaulters, prevention of damage, education of prospective employees, advising companies and influencing legislators to make suitable rules for our country's needs.

The amalgamation of available expertise from four significant sources is not always easy, as the interests of the National Parks Authority, H.M. Inspectorate of Pollution, local waste legislation authorities - all 83 of them and the Department of the Environment Waste, Technical, Contaminated Land Labilities Division have all to be considered before anything is done! After explaining the theory underlying the work planned and carried out to deal with the many aspects of water pollution, Mr. Grainger went on to show slides illustrating various aspects of water use and control starting with a surprising view of the head of the River Trent, north of Stoke, which could be crossed by jumping it! By the time it reaches Nottingham it has been joined by six other water courses and is widely used by many people.

Flooding brings severe problems from oil, petrol, chemicals and whatever floats out of buildings and vehicles. Storage of water for domestic and industrial use requires reservoirs. Power stations, farms, angling clubs, sailors and watersports clubs all need the right amount and kind of water in order to flourish. This means samples have to be collected and analysed, and extraction permits monitored all the time. Emergencies and antisocial activities posing a possible pollution threat have to be reported and checked out immediately through national call services, in close co- operation with the fire service, police force, the Health and Safety Executive and marine pollution Control Unit.

Potential problems arise from unauthorised tipping, careless storage of fluids in drums, illegal tyre dumps, motorway accidents, chemical spillage, plane crashes, illegal discharges from factories, dairies, breweries, crop growers, chemical works, burning buildings or vehicles, mines, quarries, livestock and silage, pesticides, sewage debris, and domestic waste or litter. All these have to be located, assessed and dealt with speedily if there are to be no serious or long term harmful consequences for us and cause all the wildlife which depends just as much as we do on a safe water supply.

After so many thought provoking slides and scenes of negative events, it was lovely to conclude the journey down the Trent with and idyllic scene of ducks on water - even the frozen variety. What a fascinating if occasionally scary evening we had from a potentially dismal subject.

Brenda Towlson
October 1999