AN environmental campaigner has urged local governments to take further action to protect rivers from pollution caused by the dumping of raw sewage.
Over the last few weeks there have been several reports and cases from around the UK of water companies dumping raw sewage into rivers across the UK.
Angela Jones is a wild swimmer and environmental campaigner who has been campaigning for several years to protect the River Wye and Usk.
Angela regularly uses the River Wye and Usk for her work taking people out to teach them about wild swimming and other water-based activities such as kayaking.
Before every river swim, Angela tests the water for potentially dangerous phosphate and nitrate level.
However Angela has recently been unable to swim in the rivers or take swimmers out in the water, after her tests recorded increasing levels of nitrate and phosphate within the watercourse.
This comes after a report by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) from February 2022, found that the River Usk had the highest incidence of phosphate pollution among Wales’ nine river Special Areas of Conservation.
Fertiliser run-off from agriculture, human and animal waste and industrial effluent have been linked as causes of high phosphate levels in rivers.
Angela herself has seen raw sewage being dumped into the River Usk from some of the many storm outflows positioned along the 76-mile river, and is adamant that more action must now be taken to prevent water companies from doing this.
Speaking to the Chronicle, Angela said: “We are being let down by organisations like Natural Resources Wales and local governments who are not doing enough to stop this form of pollution within our rivers, which sadly are now on a cliff-edge.
“There has been a distinct lack of fines or other punishment of fines despite water companies dumping raw sewage in river, not enough action is taken to protect these rivers, and we need to keep up the pressure on them to make sure they are held to account.”
In the past few weeks Angela has also learnt of several reports of people and animals becoming sick after swimming in the River Usk, which she believes is down to pollution caused by the dumping of raw sewage.
Angela has now put a number of signs up along the River Usk warning people of the dangers posed by swimming in the River.
She has hosted a number of protest marches in towns including Abergavenny, Usk and Monmouth to raise awareness of pollution within our rivers, and will be hosting another march in Crickhowell from 10am on Saturday October 1.
Angela also hosts regular monthly ‘Save the River Usk’ meetings, and has organised a petition to help improve water quality in the River Usk by upgrading sewage systems in the valley, which has so far received 1,104 signatures.
She has filmed programmes concerning pollution in our rivers having appeared in a BBC Panorama programme broadcast in September 2021 adressing the state of the Rivers Wye and Usk, has appeared on Good Morning Britain recently to talk about the issue and is currently working on a new documentary of which clips will be shown at her next march in Crickhowell.
Speaking about why she campaigns and feels so passionate about protecting our rivers, Angela said: “People have been swimming in the River Usk for over 100 years, they love watching the wildlife and to see it changing is heart-breaking.
“I do all this campaigning through my own money and receive no money so I have no ulterior motive other than looking after our rivers.
“Both the Usk and the Wye are some of our most cherished rivers in this country, with both being Sites of Special Scientific Interest due to it’s outstanding wildlife that lives there but sadly we are not doing enough to protect it.
“I’ve spoken to many fishermen who say that fish and salmon numbers have decreased dramatically, and I have seen cases of fish and other organisms that live within our rivers dying due to the increased pollution.”
Despite her campaigning, Angela is still worried that not enough people are aware of the threats posed to our rivers and wants to raise awareness of what is going on within our rivers.
She added: “It is all about educating and raising awareness, as most people are unaware of the dangers posed by swimming in the river when phosphate levels are high.
“There is a need to unite together, pollution and dumping of sewage is happening all over the country, but there is a need to do it in the right way. As I’ve said before; aggression never brings progression but longevity does.”