HOPE FOR TYNE RIVERS AS TRUST TACKLES POLLUTION
After disappointing news on the state of UK’s rivers last month, with no river achieving good chemical status, due to a new way of assessing chemical status which includes new chemicals and tighter limits, Chief Executive Officer of Tyne Rivers Trust, Ceri Gibson is keen to reassure people that all is not lost for the rivers and burns of the Tyne catchment.
In fact, 77 of the Tyne’s 211 rivers and burns achieved good ecological status, which means they are as close to their natural state as possible. This includes stretches of the South Tyne near Garrigill and stretches of Devils Water. This means 36.5% of the Tyne’s rivers are achieving good ecological status, compared to 14% nationally.
Although, this is good news, there is clearly more work to be done for all the Tyne’s rivers to achieve good status.
To support this, the Trust has focused on three causes of pollution; toxins from abandoned metal mines, pollution from farming and sediment from unstable riverbanks.
Pollution from metal mining
Metal mines played a major part in Britain’s history, but abandoned mines now pollute our rivers with toxic sediment from unstable spoil heaps.
Ceri Gibson says: “The Trust has been working with the Environment Agency and the Coal Authority to tackle the toxic legacy left by these mines. We use natural materials such as bio-degradable matting and log barriers to stabilise the spoil heaps and stop sediment washing into the river, particularly during periods of heavy rainfall.
“These mines are located in the Pennines at the top of the catchment, so any toxins washed into the river travel all the way downstream to Tynemouth.
“We worked on seven sites last year and will stabilise another 10 this year.”
Pollution from farming
The Trust runs a faming fund for the South Tyne to work with farmers to reduce pollution and increase efficiency. Farmers benefit from regular workshops and a 20% uplift in points when applying for a Countryside Stewardship scheme. The fund is free for farmers to join and currently has more than 30 members.
The workshops focus on practical ways to increase efficiency and improve water quality such as clean and dirty water separation, slowing the flow through hedge planting and buffer strips, reducing run-off and improving soil quality.
Pollution from sediment
Finally, the Trusts team of volunteers work on practical conservation tasks like willow weaving to stabilise the riverbank and stop sediment from building up in the river. As well as improving water quality, this helps to reduce the risk of flooding during heavy downpours. In 2019 alone volunteers secured more than 190m of riverbank.
Ceri Gibson says: “The good news is that we know what to do and how to do it, it’s just a case of getting the right funding and bringing everyone together to restore the Tyne rivers to their natural state for future generations to enjoy.”