Plastic Waste in Lakes – Call for evidence
At the present time there is intense public interest in plastic waste and what happens to it if it is not recycled or recovered for energy. This interest was sparked by the recent BBC series, Blue Planet II, with its images of sea creatures tangled up in plastic wastes of different types, and analyses of the stomach contents of various sea creatures all of which contained plastic. The main problem with plastic litter (or large quantities of plastic waste dumped in the environment intentionally) is that it doesn’t readily break down organically – it can remain in the environment for a thousand years or more, and if it’s moving around in a water body it will break up gradually into ever smaller pieces during this period.
Whilst the problem is not as obvious in inland still waters like lakes and reservoirs, it is most certainly an issue which needs attention. This is evidenced by the 250 tonnes of litter (much of it plastic) which was picked up from a single stretch of the shoreline of Lough Neagh recently, and the experience around Windermere in the past where ‘Winder Cleaning’ projects were carried out to clear litter from the shoreline and the lake bed, which also produced large quantities of plastics.
I think UKILN should be lobbying our respective Governments to ensure that our inland still waters are not forgotten in any policy making, or funded action programmes which are created, aimed at clearing up plastic wastes from our seas and shorelines.
In order to do this effectively, I would like all UKILN members to place any evidence they have of plastic pollution and its effects on lakes etc. onto the website, so a stronger, evidence based case can be put to Ministers and civil servants.
Tony Dean, UKILN President, October 2018
The Swindale Valley Restoration Project, a partnership involving United Utilities, the Environment Agency, Natural England and the RSPB has won a major nature conservation award, the ENDS Environmental Impact Award for 2017.
A tributary of the River Eden, Swindale Beck, runs through Swindale Valley, forming part of the RSPB’s landholding at Haweswater. A sizable stretch of the river was straightened at least 200 years ago in an attempt to provide more land for grazing and hay making.
However, this modification has caused serious problems for Atlantic salmon as the straightened and fast flowing channel does not provide the different habitats, normally found in natural meandering rivers, which they need to successfully spawn. The UK is a stronghold for Atlantic salmon, however, the numbers returning to spawn have halved since the 1970s.
Working in partnership with the Environment Agency, landowners United Utilities and Natural England, the RSPB is restoring part of this artificial stretch of the river, enabling it to revert to its former slower-flowing, meandering course.
This is being achieved by digging a new channel along a carefully mapped route, redirecting the water flow, then filling in the old straightened section to create a more suitable and productive meadow that will help support the farm, as well provide a home for wildflowers and insects.
The restoration of Swindale Beck is jointly funded by the Environment Agency, Cumbria Waste Management Environment Trust and United Utilities.
Oliver Southgate, River Restoration Project Manager at the Environment Agency, said: “River restoration projects like this can provide multiple benefits for both people and wildlife. By working in partnership with other organisations and landowners, we can truly make a difference and return some of our constrained rivers back to their former natural glory.
“The Cumbria River Restoration programme is working across the whole of the region in a bid to safeguard our special areas, enhance wildlife and create a better place for people.”
Paul Phillips from United Utilities said: “This will bring big benefits to water quality as well as wildlife. A more natural channel will be broad and shallow in times of flood and slower to deliver water into the River Lowther. Sediments and gravels will be deposited more naturally with less reaching Haweswater reservoir.
by Tony Dean