Some of you will have read of my disappointment last week when the government passed a bill that will allow water companies to continue pumping sewage into our rivers for the next 15 years. Our town only exists because of the River Wye and unless urgent action is taken we could very well see it die before our eyes; a truly heart-breaking prospect.
However, the awful actions of water companies are not the only problem our river has to contend with. There is also the issue of chicken manure that continues to be used on fields within the Wye’s catchment area. Avara Foods, who supply chicken to Tesco, are responsible for more than 16 million of the 20 million chickens reared along the Wye which has seen a huge surge in chicken numbers over the past twenty years.
Research proves that recently the Wye has been affected by increasing algal blooms partly caused by poultry farms spreading more manure than the land can absorb, this has led to excess phosphorus leaching into waterways.
Our town only exists because of the River Wye and unless urgent action is taken we could very well see it die before our eyes.
Mayor Ed O'Driscoll
Interestingly, last month one of Avara’s joint owners the US food giant Cargill lost a court case in the US and was held responsible with others for polluting the Illinois River with poultry manure. The companies have until mid-March to reach an agreement with the state of Oklahoma on how they will work to remedy the pollution’s effects which incidentally included algal blooms. Pleasingly they are being forced to put things right.
Significantly the US court ruling also stated that the company had known since the 1980s about the damaging effects to rivers of phosphorus in poultry manure but continued to allow its manure to be applied to the land without any appropriate management. While I’m not surprised by this revelation it does make me very angry.
Local campaigners including the ‘Save the Wye Coalition’ now say the US court ruling sets an example and Avara needs to pay to clean up our river. I hope the Environment Agency will take heed of the US ruling and finally do something to improve the situation. The case against them seems crystal clear to me … unlike the waters in our river!