Herefordshire Water quality & phosphate levels

Water Quality and Phosphate levels in Herefordshire

Phosphates in our rivers mostly come from diffuse agricultural pollution, and discharges from sewage treatment plants. High phosphate levels cause serious damage to water ecosystems.

To address phosphate levels in the Wye and Lugg, the Environment Agency and Natural England have a "Nutrient Management Plan" (NMP) for the whole of the River Wye Special Area of Conservation, which is designated under the EU Habitats Directive. Although the Environment Agency monitors phosphates monthly in both rivers, the data is not published.

Phosphate Data for Herefordshire

In December 2017 we submitted a legal information request using the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (known as an EIR request) to obtain the phosphate data for the Wye and Lugg.

River Lugg phosphate levels over 3 times legal limit

The previously unpublished data that we obtained showed that the Lugg was in a poor condition, with the last reading given (for 29th Sep 2015) showing an actual level of 0.155 mg per litre, over 3 times the 0.05 legal limit set by Natural England. The Lugg’s phosphate levels had risen significantly from 0.0821 on 23rd June, to 0.115 on 20th August, and then to 0.155 on 29th September 2015.

We were successful in obtaining local media coverage of the phosphate pollution issue, when BBC Hereford & Worcester featured this in their morning radio programme on the 14th January. This included interviews with the Angling Trust and the Wye & Usk Foundation, and Herefordshire Councillors Philip Price (who chairs the Nutrient Management Board) and Felicity Norman.

What next?

Our first priority is to end the secrecy over river pollution in the county, so that the responsible public authorities can be held to account. The Environment Agency must be required to publish online the monthly phosphate levels as they are monitored, and Herefordshire Council must be required to publish the agendas and minutes of Nutrient Management Board meetings, and open up these secret meetings to the public and media.

Phosphate mapping commissioned by Herefordshire CPRE

Herefordshire CPRE have commissioned an expert to extract the raw data from the Environment Agency’s website for every current sampling point in the Upper Wye and Lugg catchment inside Herefordshire and turn the data into a set of easily read graphs and a map. You can look at it here (red points are over the ceiling, green are under. Click once on each point to bring up the graph for that point.)

The map is based on data up to Autumn 2017 .

As of that date only five out of 49 sampling points were ‘green’ i.e. within the ceilings. The graphs show that when the Board started work in Autumn 2015 eleven points were green.