Blue Flower

The Pollution of the River Cary

Have you noticed the ever-darkening water that flows down the River Cary? When did you last see a fish, a kingfisher or a water vole there? In mid October I watched a heron fishing in the ponds of Wheathill golf course. A few days later I found the heron, dead on the river bank, where the black River Cary flows alongside the course.

Like you, I’ve heard that “stuff” is put into the river upstream from us. I needed to find out more. I called the Environment Agency (EA) Incident line on 0800 807060 to report the dead heron. What I learned from the EA was astounding.

Viridor, who operate Dimmer tip, pay the EA for a licence to discharge up to 150 cubic metres of black/brown leachate (drainage from the tip) into the river every day. That’s 150,000 litres or 150 tons. Although the amount is never quite up to that limit, they are discharging, on average, 40,000 - 60,000 litres per day (40-60 tons). In periods of low rainfall, such as recently, the river looks blacker and more concentrated than normal as there’s more leachate in there than clean river water. There is a huge amount of pollutant going into our river.

I was reassured by the EA that the black leachate is treated prior to being discharged into the river. They have furnished me with numbers and readings taken from various points in the river during 2015 and say they are within limits. But, whose limits? What I see from the readings is a big increase in the amount of chemicals in the water downstream from the discharge, not to mention the dreadful colour of the water. They say wildlife is not affected. I’m not convinced at all. When did you last see any wildlife along the river? What I have discovered is that cattle drinking have taken ill and dogs swimming have developed skin and ear infections. Until recently the vets at Cary have been blissfully unaware of what is happening to the river.

I fully understand that the tip at Dimmer requires drainage. What I don’t think is acceptable in this day is the long standing arrangement between the Environment Agency and Viridor to discharge partially treated black leachate into the river. I’m told that Viridor are planning on building a new treatment plant. In the meantime, they have planted willow trees on the river flood plain and plan to divert the leachate to the willows in times of low river flow. To me this feels like a half-hearted attempt to appease the public and it will just spread the leachate around without dealing with the pollution properly.

I feel that we should insist on the installation of the best modern treatment plant available in order to produce clean leachate water for discharge. The nub is they’re expensive. Would Viridor pay? Could we influence it? Would you like to get involved? I’ve been to the discharge point. I’ve seen what’s going into our river. It’s shocking.

(Written in the Six Pilgrims Parish Magazine 2016 December by Jeremy Spence - Video provided by Jeremy Spence)