Anglers Against Pollution

Upper Medway angling clubs challenge Environment Agency and Southern Water over poor water quality

The Royal Tunbridge Wells Angling Society (RTWAS) and Bromley & District Angling Society (BDAS) joined the Angling Trust Water Quality Monitoring Network in September due to concerns over pollution on their waters. 

There are now seven volunteers from the two clubs taking regular water samples from the Upper Medway and its tributaries and will be joined by volunteers from the Rookery Angling Club in the new year.

So far, 42 samples have been recorded, of which 32 exceed the limits, that’s over 76%.  The highest phosphate level was 2.36ppm, against a Water Framework Directive standard of between 0.077 and 0.306ppm, with nitrate levels of over 20 ppm. In freshwater, nitrate levels should be less than 1ppm.

The situation on the Medway’s tributary, the River Grom, was particularly bad, so the clubs set about testing the Grom systematically from Royal Tunbridge Wells downstream and pinpointed four potential sources of pollution:

  • Run off from a large cattle farm
  • A Southern Water sewage pumping station
  • The South Tunbridge Wells Water Treatment Works outfall
  • A brick stack/manhole/inspection port from a local estate

On the strength of the tests and readings taken, three Environmental Incidents have been reported to the Environment Agency (EA) hotline.

The EA have investigated each of the three incidents plus acted on further telephone conversations and emails and have appointed a proactive Environmental Officer contact to deal with the clubs.

The clubs will be sharing monthly sampling data for two locations on the Grom with the EA, who are embracing the WQMN data and involving the clubs to help sort and pre-empt issues. The farm in question has been placed on the EA’s inspection and watch list.

Southern Water have been tasked by the EA with inspecting, videoing and jet washing the sewers from a private estate. They have also been tasked with checking and providing sewage discharge and water quality data.

Southern Water have assured the EA that they are working within limits of discharge permit – a claim disputed by the clubs who have requested a copy of their Discharge Permit and will be monitoring discharge rates accordingly.

Southern Water have already inspected and repaired the broken brick stack/manhole/inspection port, a definite source of raw sewage entering the river after heavy rain, so some progress is being made.

In a statement, Royal Tunbridge Wells Angling Society said:

“We have been concerned about the ecology of our precious Upper Medway resource ever since a near catastrophic pollution incident some 15 years ago. From that very low point we have embarked on a habitat improvement and stocking programme and, with advice and funding from the Environment Agency, are making great strides. However, we knew that the water quality itself was far from perfect from the very occasional and expensive specialist surveys we undertook.

“The Angling Trust WQMN has given our small band of dedicated volunteers the confidence, understanding, equipment, training, focus and support needed to try, with some success, to make a difference.”

As a result of the clubs’ work two more angling clubs in the area (Dorset Arms and Crowborough) have signed up with the Angling Trust’s WQMN initiative and will start testing soon. The clubs are also working with other interested groups including, local landowners, the Friends of the River Medway group, local councillors, South East River Trust as well as the Angling Trust & Fish Legal.

Kris Kent, Angling Trust’s WQMN national lead said:

“Whilst the Water Quality Monitoring Network is a long-term initiative, it is great to see clubs already using the invaluable data it generates to address the causes of pollution on their waters and to hold the Environment Agency and Southern Water to account.  Further evidence, as if it is needed, that anglers are the guardians of our rivers and waterways.”

The WQMN initiative is supported financially by Orvis UK and APTUS tackle and the “Big Yellow Boxes” are supplied by Flambeau Outdoors. If your club would like to get involved, please contact [email protected]


RTWAS Upper Medway (Video 1).jpg

RTWAS Upper Medway (Video 2).jpg

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