It’s the perfume that you notice first.

"If we can’t conserve the most protected, how can we ever conserve the rest?"

Feargal Sharkey, recently appointed a Salmon & Trout Conservation Vice President writes,

It’s the perfume that you notice first.

Not in that pleasingly attractive CHANEL N° 5 kind of a way but more in that acrid, back of the throat, ammonia filled reflux-inducing kind of a way.

It’s when you notice the used condoms, the sanitary products and the dead rat all trapped in a spiralling embrace, circulating anticlockwise in a backwater eddy that you really begin to notice that things just aren’t right. What one observer pithily described as “Dead rat and sanitary towel soup”.

Is this fiction? No. In 2019 raw sewage was discharged for more than 1,000 hours into an environmental wetland situated at the heart of Olympic Park, Hackney Marshes created as part of the London Olympics legacy.

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Yes as part of an event designed to highlight to the world the greatest achievements of British athletes; an event who’s ambition was to build a legacy that would impact upon the lives of millions of Londoners and generations to come: to build a wetland in one of London’s most deprived boroughs. And yet, and yet in 2019 we allowed the local water company to spend more than 1,000 hours dumping sewage into that newly created wetland.

It was not an isolated event. According to recent reports in the Guardian during 2019 water companies across England spent more than 1,500,000 hours dumping sewage into our rivers.

Take for example the case of the River Avon in Hampshire. Just over 1,000 sq miles of catchment, some of the rarest, most precious rivers systems on earth: the River Avon and is tributaries. All chalks streams. All designated part of a Special Area of Conservation.

Yet in 2019, by my counting, Wessex Water spent 14,642 hours ejecting sewage into the River Avon and its catchment.

That’s 5 chalk streams, some of the rarest river ecosystems on earth, afforded one of the highest form of legal protection this country has to offer and we allowed the water company to do WHAT?

Or the Rive Kennett, given birth to in the lush rolling hills of Wiltshire but even by the time it reaches Marlborough just 10 miles later it is already polluted Thames Water having spent 1,636 hours dumping sewage into its once pristine waters.

46 miles later as it reaches Reading parts of the river have been designated a SSSI. And yet, and yet, in 2019 Thames Water spent a total of 12,734 hours dumping sewage into the Rive Kennett.

And the Environment Agency does what exactly?

Well it transpires at least in the eyes of th3e European Court of Justice (ECJ) not a lot that would bring the UK government into line with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD).

You see in 2012 the UK Government was taken to the EJC by the European Commission for been noncompliant with the Directive. My reading, the court agreed, the UK was breaking the law. Not only that the court ruled, again my reading that this should only ever happen, only ever happen in “Exception circumstances”.

Well all of that was in 2012. So here we are, 8 years later and in 2019 water companies spent over 1,500,000 hours worth of sewage dumped into England’s rivers. Would that be “Exception circumstances”?

Or the14,642 hours of sewage dumped into the River Avon catchment during 2019. Would that be “Exception circumstances”? Or the 12,734 hours worth of sewage dumped into the River Kennett. Would that be “Exception circumstances”?

As a nation it speaks volumes about the platitudes we allow government and others to heap upon the environment, the empty, meaningless words devoid of intent, the 25 year plans that simply perpetuate the obscenity and the complicity.

If we can’t conserve the most protected, how can we ever conserve the rest?