Toxic cocktails found in water at 1,600 sites around England

Sewage pollution incident wipes out fish in River Ray

Green groups are demanding action after toxic cocktails were found at more than 1,600 river and groundwater sites.

Six substances in five different hazardous mixtures were discovered by the Wildlife and Countryside Link and The Rivers Trust.

At 1,619 sites, these included four poisonous “forever” chemicals – ones that take decades to break down – called PFOS, PFOA, PFBS and PFHxS. The other two were the pesticide 2,4-D and common painkiller ibuprofen.

The chemicals are known to harm amphibians, fish, insects, nitrogen-fixing bacteria and algae.

Eco groups want a government crackdown with new chemicals assessed for potential hazardous mixtures before they are allowed on the market.

WCL boss Richard Benwell said: “A harmful chemical cocktail is being stirred up in UK rivers, putting wildlife and public health at risk.

“Government regulates and monitors chemicals individually, ignoring the cocktail effect. But our research shows that toxic combinations of pesticides, pharmaceuticals and forever chemicals are polluting rivers up and down
the country.”

Such chemical cocktails have been found in 814 out of 1,006 river and lake sites and 805 groundwater locations across England.

Up to 101 chemicals were identified in river samples. Sites along the Mersey, Stour, Colne, Thames, Trent, Yare, Irwell, Medway, Humber and Avon had the highest numbers of substances.

The actual numbers of pollutants will be even higher, the report said.

Rob Collins, at The Rivers Trust, said: “The fact that these known toxic chemical combinations are found so widely is deeply worrying. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Ellen Bradley, of UK Youth 4 Nature, said: “Tougher chemical controls and curbs on agricultural pollution are vital if younger people are to see our not-so-freshwater cleaned up.”

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