Archive for March, 2023

PFAS pollution in drinking water and rivers

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Watershed Investigations takes to the Thames for Sky News’ Climate Show to talk about PFAS pollution in drinking water, rivers, sediments and fish.



‘Concerning’ levels of forever chemicals found in UK fish

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Flounder, dab and plaice have been found to contain highly-persistent industrial pollutants.

Testing of “forever chemicals” in England’s wild fish has found high levels of an industrial pollutant that if eaten more than twice a year would exceed recommended EU safety guidelines.

Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of nearly 10,000 chemicals that are used in many household goods such as non-stick cookware, waterproof fabrics, personal care products and stain-proof coatings on carpets.

Data obtained by Watershed Investigations – a team of journalists investigating water issues, and shared with the PA news agency – shows contamination in flounder, dab and plaice throughout England’s river and coastal habitats, with the highest readings in the Thames, Mersey and Wyre.

Click here to view and download the fish data.

UK ministers under pressure to tighten laws on ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

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Pressure is building on UK ministers to tighten regulations on PFAS “forever chemicals” as research by Watershed shows vast numbers of people are drinking water with levels that would be banned in the US.

On Tuesday, US president Joe Biden announced plans to drive down acceptable limits in drinking water to four nanograms per litre (4ng/l) for two types of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFOS and PFOA), and announced proposals to regulate four more – PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS and GenX Chemicals – as a mixture. In the UK the guideline limit is 100ng/l.

Rivers at risk if summer drought strikes

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England faces an ‘ecological disaster’ if a severe drought strikes, with water companies turning to rivers to avoid drinking water shortages. Analysis of water companies’ plans reveals huge shortfall in the case of severe drought if no action is taken.

Pan-European forever pollution project

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More than 17 000 sites all over Europe are contaminated by the ‘forever chemicals’ PFAS, an exclusive, months-long investigation from 18 European newsrooms, including Watershed with the Guardian, shows. Watershed sourced multiple datasets and performed its own sampling to build up the UK picture. The Forever Pollution Project involved Le Monde (France), NDR, WDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), RADAR Magazine and Le Scienze (Italy), The Investigative Desk and NRC (Netherlands), Knack (Belgium), Denik Referendum (Czech Republic), Politiken (Denmark), YLE (Finland), Reporters United (Greece), Latvian Radio (Latvia), Datadista (Spain), SRF (Switzerland)

Is the UK absent from the fight against PFAS pollution?

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Nations are scrambling to combat the risks posed by forever chemicals in rivers and drinking water by toughening up regulation, but the UK appears to be lagging behind. The EU is considering regulating 10,000 PFAS chemicals as single class and driving down river water quality limits. The US is set to announce a much lower acceptable limit for PFAS in drinking water. The UK has no such proposals on the table. In a second article for ENDS, Watershed explores how much we know about the UK’s PFAS problem.

The scale of PFAS ‘forever chemical’ pollution

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A major investigation focused on widespread pollution by ‘forever chemicals’ called PFAS. It launched on the front page of the Guardian and involved seven stories over three days. Working with European media partners such as Le Monde and Süddeutsche Zeitung, and using data sourced by Watershed, we created a UK and Europe-wide map showing where PFAS pollution has been found. 

We ran five further stories, one examining a PFAS manufacturer on the River Wyre where we had sampled for and found PFAS in high concentrations, a second on the PFAS legacy of a massive oil depot fire, the third was an explainer on the chemicals, the fourth examined solutions to the problem, the fifth looked at the political reaction to the stories, and a further story on PFAS was written by staff writers. Finally, we were interviewed about PFAS for the Guardian’s podcast

Watershed - Investigative Journalism