Archive for the ‘Other stories’ Category

‘Dirty secret’: insiders say UK water firms knowingly break sewage laws

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Whistleblowers say UK water companies are knowingly failing to treat legally required amounts of sewage, and that some treatment works are manipulating wastewater systems to divert raw sewage away from the works and into rivers and seas.

It is well known that water companies are dumping large volumes of raw sewage into rivers and seas from storm overflows but an investigation by the Guardian and Watershed Investigations reveals that the industry’s “dirty secret” is bigger, broader and deeply systemic.

By law, every wastewater treatment works must treat a minimum amount of sewage as stipulated in their environmental permits. Four whistleblowers have told Watershed that a large proportion regularly fail to do so and are not reporting it to the environmental regulator.

Abandoned pipelines could release poisons into North Sea

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Decaying oil and gas pipelines left to fall apart in the North Sea could release large volumes of poisons such as mercury, radioactive lead and polonium-210, notorious for its part in the poisoning of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko, scientists told Watershed Investigations.

Mersey suffers from major PFAS pollution

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Watershed’s article in The Times reports that cancer-causing chemical loads flowing through the River Mersey catchment are among the largest recorded in the world and most of it is coming from sewage works. 

Compared with a number of river basins across the world, only the Tokyo basin carries more PFOA per square kilometre of land. For PFOS, the Mersey catchment is the third worst, after the Tokyo basin and Cape Fear in the US. The discovery was made by hydrologist Dr Patrick Byrne from Liverpool John Moores University, who monitored the Mersey for a year and calculated the forever chemical load travelling through the catchment.  

Watershed releases new documentary ‘TOXIC’

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Watershed has worked with the ENDS Report to produce a new film ‘TOXIC: Britain’s forever poisoned rivers and seas’. The film can be viewed at and reveals PFAS pollution hotspots across England, particularly in the Mersey and Wyre. Featuring Feargal Sharkey, Dame Natalie Bennett, Clare Cavers, Dr Patrick Byrne, Dr Tom Miller and Lizzie Carr, it tells the worrying story of widespread carcinogen contamination.


Scientific paper based on the Forever Pollution Project

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A scientific paper based on the Forever Pollution Project on PFAS was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters. A researcher said: “We used the data to study the relationships between PFAS soil concentrations and point sources. An AI-driven predictive model was developed that enabled us to generate a map of PFAS soil concentration over the entire European soils. The map provides important insights (or better to say, warnings!) into the scale of PFAS contamination in soils in Europe, and we discuss the implications in relation to seepage water concentrations as well.”

Watershed ‘highly commended’ at British Journalism Awards

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Watershed was shortlisted for a British Journalism Award for its work on PFAS forever chemical pollution and received ‘highly commended’ by the judges. The winner was a 10-strong team of BBC journalists who ran a fantastic investigation into the deadly impact of oil giants’ air pollution. The awards celebrate the best public interest reporting of 2023 and Watershed was fortunate to make the shortlist under the environment category alongside some great journalists doing important work.

Scientists call on ministers to cut limits for ‘forever chemicals’ in UK tap water

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Acceptable levels of “forever chemicals” in drinking water should be reduced tenfold and a new national chemicals agency created to protect public health, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has told the UK government.

The RSC has produced a map using data published in the Guardian with Watershed Investigations in February, revealing that a “third of the watercourses tested contain medium- or high-risk levels of PFAS, according to the DWI’s own classification system”.

Government slammed over sewage pollution

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Watershed appeared on BBC News to discuss fresh reports that water companies appear to be dumping raw sewage into rivers in breach of their permits. Separately, Watershed was also asked to explain to BBC News viewers why the Office for Environmental Protection has announced that Defra, the Environment Agency and Ofwat may have all failed to comply with the law over their regulation of sewage pollution.

PODCAST: ‘It’s killing us slowly’: water rationing in Cape Town

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Cape Town teeters on the edge of Day Zero – the time when water will no longer flow from its taps. But poorer residents are first the feel the thirst and say water rationing is slowly killing them. Rachel and Leana speak to Cape Town residents, including Faeza Meyer from the African Water Commons Collective, about the desperate situation, and interview Professor Hannah Cloke from the University of Reading, whose new study shows that it is the ‘elite’ – people who have swimming pools and large gardens – who are driving water crisis just as much as climate change and population growth.

In each episode, investigative journalists Leana Hosea and Rachel Salvidge bring you tales from the frontline of the water crisis, interviewing:

  • Somone on the frontline of the water crisis who is experiencing first hand pollution/drought/floods/extinction events and diseases driven by climate change and bad management.
  • A world class expert, who can shed light on the causes and solutions to the issue in hand.

Watershed makes 2023 Rivers Warriors list

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Each year, the Lewis Pugh Foundation selects their River Warriors – people who “dedicate themselves to restoring, protecting, recognising and defending our precious river systems”.  Watershed is honoured to feature on the list alongside some incredibly inspiring people.

Watershed - Investigative Journalism