Bakkavör plc must now end pollution of Upper Itchen

Bakkavör plc must now end pollution of Upper Itchen

“Continued pollution unnecessary and unacceptable.” 

NEWS RELEASE 13 Feb 2020

Sustained pressure from S&TC has resulted in Bakkavör plc finding a solution that should effectively end their pollution of the Upper Itchen, but twenty months after S&TC first complained to the EA we are still waiting for action.

S&TC understands that following our notification under the Environmental Liability Directive to the EA, which raised concerns that pesticides from the Alresford Salads plant represented an imminent threat to aquatic invertebrates, Bakkavör has successfully trialled a technical solution to remove a range of chemicals from their discharges.

S&TC has seen the results of trials using ozone (attached) which appear to have removed pesticides, herbicides and insecticides to levels below the current limits of detection. This process not only appears to remove problem pesticides washed off imported salad leaves but will also remove toxic chemicals that have leached into the groundwater over previous years., If treatment is implemented, this could mean the discharge would return water to the river in a cleaner state than it came out of Bakkavör’s borehole.

Bakkavör deserves credit for developing what appears to be a powerful solution that will deliver real world, meaningful improvements for the ecology of this important chalkstream. But it must be implemented without delay and operate full-time.

Nick Measham, Deputy CEO for Salmon & Trout Conservation said:
“Almost two years on from our initial complaint the river is still suffering. A solution has now been identified. Continued pollution is unnecessary and unacceptable. It is untenable that rapid action will not now be taken to bring an end to this episode. 
S&TC wants the process to remove pesticides to be implemented by the end of 2020. If not, we will have to consider all options open to us to bring this pollution to an end”

The success of S&TC in motivating Bakkavör to find a solution is a strong validation of our approach to conserve and restore our rivers. However, there remain long standing structural issues with the Environment Agency’s current discharge permitting regime which raise considerable doubts about its ability to deliver genuine environmental protection. Importantly, there is a severe lack of resources for the EA’s monitoring programme.

S&TC’s invertebrate sampling and analysis clearly indicated a strong signal for chemical damage which subsequently forced the EA to conduct its own detailed investigation. That EA investigation revealed Bakkavör was in fact discharging a cocktail of potentially dangerous pesticides, including the neonicotinoid, acetamiprid. In response to these findings the EA requested Bakkavör find a means of removing pesticides from its discharge and to accept revisions to its discharge permit. Whether any of this would have happened without S&TC forcing the issue must be in doubt.

Dr Janina Gray, Head of Science & Policy for Salmon & Trout Conservation, added:

"The situation at Bakkavör Alresford Salads makes it obvious that the way the EA manages and regulates its permitting process is not protecting the environment. 

The EA must now ensure nationally that any permit with the potential to discharge pesticides into rivers is reviewed. 

There is no excuse to delay and we expect significant progress on this from the EA in 2020.”

While this is a noteworthy local issue, it may also have national implications. Further investigations by S&TC indicate that there could be hundreds of other sites with similar issues across England.

S&TC’s use of aquatic invertebrate analysis as a diagnostic tool, combined with an uncompromising approach to dealing with public authorities, is a tried and tested approach that can rapidly improve wild water habitats across all of the UK. We will continue to press the EA to adopt this process of permit revision for pesticide discharges nationally and pursue polluters to the fullest of our ability.


Issued by Corin Smith (07463 576892) on behalf of Salmon and Trout Conservation.

Notes to Editors

(1) Salmon and Trout Conservation

Salmon & Trout Conservation (S&TC) was established as the Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) in 1903 to address the damage done to our rivers by the polluting effects of the Industrial Revolution. Since then, S&TC has worked to protect fisheries, fish stocks and the wider aquatic environment for the public benefit. S&TC has charitable status in England, Wales and Scotland and its charitable objectives empower it to address all issues affecting fish and the aquatic environment, supported by robust evidence from its scientific network, and to take the widest possible remit in protecting salmonid fish stocks and the aquatic environment upon which they depend.


(2) Previous coverage