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  • by Karma Loveday

Greenpeace unearths sharp decline in river samples and sites

Greenpeace has questioned the ability of a stripped back Environment Agency to protect rivers from polluters after reporting a steep decline in both the number of river sites checked and water samples taken.

A Freedom of Information request from Greenpeace’s reporting arm, Unearthed, showed the Agency took water quality samples at 10,797 sites in 2013, but that the number gradually tapered off over the ensuing years, and saw a steep drop to 5,796 sampling points in 2018 — nearly 40% less than the year before. During the same period (2013-2018), Greenpeace found the number of water quality samples fell by 45% – from 160,000 to 87,000 – due to a switch to a more targeted, risk based approach.

Chief scientist Doug Parr said: “How the Environment Agency expects to clean up our polluted streams and rivers, while halving the number of places that it tests, is a complete mystery. It’s like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle with only half the pieces.”

Linking the river research to staff and budget cuts at the Agency, he added: “These findings beg the question of whether the environmental watchdog is still fit for purpose. Without sufficient government funding that enables it to monitor, protect and improve our rivers, wildlife and environment more broadly, how can it be expected to do its job?”

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