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River Wye: Pollution

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 64844, tabled on 25 June 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of levels of pollution in the River Wye resulting from the farming of chickens; and if he will make a statement.

Answered on

3 July 2020

The River Wye in England is at risk of failing its conservation target for phosphate in the lower reaches. This is a complex issue and is partly influenced by factors upstream including the River Lugg which discharges into the Wye below Hereford. The Lugg is currently failing its conservation target for phosphate as determined by the EU Habitats Regulations.

Phosphate is the primary cause for many water quality failures and originates from two main sources: discharges from sewage treatment works in accordance with environmental permits and from diffuse agricultural pollution, principally livestock manure, including chicken farming, and nutrients washing into the river during rainfall events.

Permitted poultry farms are obliged to control manure. To protect water quality, the Environment Agency (EA) designates certain at-risk areas as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones which require landowners to follow rules for storing organic manure. The EA also uses Farming Rules for Water regulations which require farmers to keep livestock fertilisers and manures out of the water.

The EA is working with a range of stakeholders and partners, including those in Wales, to address the concerns about phosphate levels in the River Wye. The EA is aware that this is an issue of interest to many, especially as the River Wye Catchment is designated a Special Area of Conservation and Site of Special Scientific Interest.

In addition, the EA continues to investigate reports of algae blooms on the Wye and Lugg which can be toxic to wildlife, people and pets. It will follow these up where necessary.