County waterways a sorry picture

Date: Wednesday 3rd January 2018

Sir, Chairman David Stables is unwise to “surmise” the source of pollution investigated by Hutton Parish Council, in 2010 (Herald, 16th December).

Unless samples of water and pollutant were taken and sent to the Environment Agency for inspection, guesswork is a poor substitute for factual research.

As this waterway has from 2002 to 2016 had some 102 events, with slurry and silage liquor spills accounting for some 38 of these, towers and other containment vessel leaks and failures some 13, control system failures four, and faults found with “dairy” processes 16, (that’s 71 to cattle farming), surely it would be more reasonable to search the most frequent source first before “surmising”.

Hutton parish has this most prolific Salmonid spawning stream as an asset, its almost continuous history of pollution by agricultural sources is almost unbelievable; thanks must go to a small number of concerned locals for constant vigilance and shame on those who illegally treat this water as a useful drain for their commercial activities.

Sadly there are many more streams like “Skitwath” in Eden’s catchment.

On a similar note, the reference by our excellent MP Rory Stewart to “Cumbria’s cleanest rivers” in his Christmas address is misleading.

The River Eden is now unfit to hold the accolade European Special Site of Scientific Interest.

Clean some may be, but evidence from English Nature and Environment Agency testing, together with a search of the pollution event records, shows a sorry picture for our county’s waters, with agriculture being the worst polluting offender.

A cursory glance at many of our waters shows a distinct lack of weed and a more detailed study will find that the aquatic lifeforms are under much stress, historically these signs are alarming. Currently they are disastrous.

It’s a noble gesture to boost the “feel good” factor for the agricultural community by such utterances but it misleads the majority of his constituents who might prefer scientific accuracy. Yours etc,