'Don't risk swimming in Britain's rivers', says Environment Agency boss

'Don't risk swimming in Britain's rivers', says Environment Agency boss
'Don't risk swimming in Britain's rivers', says Environment Agency boss

An Environment Agency boss today warned Britons to not risk swimming in the country's rivers amid continuing concern over sewage being dumped into them.

John Leyland, the agency's chief of staff, insisted rivers were 'not there for human swimming' and were instead 'for the wildlife and the fish that live within them'.

It comes after data released by the EA agency shows that water companies dumped raw sewage into England's rivers and seas more than 400,000 times last year.

Environmental campaigners have also raised concerns that only 14 per cent of rivers in England are rated in 'good' ecological health and none meet chemical standards.

Mr Leyland spoke during an ITV documentary due to air at 7.30pm tonight looking at water quality following a spike in interest in wild swimming during the pandemic.

John Leyland, the Environment Agency's chief of staff, said rivers in Britain were 'not there for human swimming' and were instead 'for the wildlife and the fish that live within them'

John Leyland, the Environment Agency's chief of staff, said rivers in Britain were 'not there for human swimming' and were instead 'for the wildlife and the fish that live within them'

During the programme, reporter Joe Crowley asked Mr Leyland if people should be wild swimming in rivers with evidence of raw sewage being dumped in them.

And Mr Leyland replied: 'The rivers that we have are not there for human swimming. They're there for the wildlife and the fish that live within them. And the current regulations require us to try and get the water to a health that's suitable for that.

'I think if we want to start talking about water that's fit for human health then that is a good conversation to have, but that is a much bigger conversation.'

Asked if it was a personal risk, he said: 'I don't swim in rivers and I would just advise everybody to use the information and data. I wouldn't advise anybody to take a risk.'

Campaigners for cleaner waters believe the decline in UK rivers is due to raw sewage being dumped there and water companies self-monitoring this since 2010.

A still from one the videos of a river used in ITV's Tonight documentary 'What's In Our Water?'

A still from one the videos of a river used in ITV's Tonight documentary 'What's In Our Water?'

The programme looks at how just 14% of rivers in England are rated in 'good' ecological health

The programme looks at how just 14% of rivers in England are rated in 'good' ecological health

The firms carry out their own pollution testing and are expected by the EA, which is the regulator, to report how often they are dumping untreated sewage.

But pressure groups say the EA's enforcement budget has been cut by almost two thirds since self-monitoring was brought into action, meaning monitoring is limited.

Guy Linley-Adams, solicitor for the Salmon and Trout Conservation, said there is no incentive for some to report, adding: 'Frankly it's only human nature.

'If you're a sewage works

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