Something fishy happening in Thornaby

10 February 2015

More than 100 yellow fish are to appear in unusual places across one of South Stockton’s Thornaby estates.

The aquatic creatures are to encourage people to think about what they put down surface water drains and to highlight and reduce the significant negative impact that misconnected waste water plumbing in homes and businesses, and the misuse of road gullies, can have on the local aquatic environment.

Road gullies are designed to only drain surface water into surface water drains and sewers. This water is often returned back to the environment, untreated.

The three-and-a-half-inch diameter plaques, which feature the fish and the words ‘DON’T POLLUTE – DRAINS TO RIVER’, will be installed next to road gullies on Eltham Crescent and its adjoining streets and have been met with positive public reception. These streets have been chosen as there has been a history of pollution issues in nearby Stainsby Beck. This is currently considered a poor watercourse under the Water Framework Directive with urban diffuse pollution one of the given reasons for failure.

Members of the media are invited to see the first fishy plaque being installed at 10.00am on Thursday February 12th 2015 outside Westlands School, Eltham Crescent, Thornaby, TS17 9RA. Jeremy Garside (Chief Executive, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust), David Johnson (Living Waterways Officer, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust), Karen Fisher (Environment Agency Biodiversity Officer), and Michael Porritt (Northumbrian Water Network Performance Controller) will be available on site for interview.

Pupils from Christ the King RC Primary School and members of the local community will also be doing a litter pick along Stainsby Beck.

The Living Waterways Project’s main aim is to create new wildlife habitats and reduce pollution to water courses from urban areas. It is a partnership initiative between Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, the Environment Agency and Northumbrian Water and is being delivered in conjunction with the national Connect Right Campaign.

ConnectRight is the public face of the National Misconnections Strategy Group. It’s a partnership of organisations who are working to reduce water pollution from drains and sewers. For more information go to http://www.connectright.org.uk/.

Baths, toilets, washing machines and dishwashers which are connected to surface water sewer systems pollute rivers and beaches, damage wildlife and put health at risk. They should instead be connected to the foul sewerage network so the waste water goes to sewage works for safe treatment. Gutters and downpipes taking rain from roofs which are wrongly connected to the foul instead of surface water sewerage systems can contribute to flooding.

David Johnson, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust’s Living Waterways Officer, said: “Misconnected waste water plumbing and misuse of road gullies is a major cause of pollution and can have a devastating impact on wildlife in watercourses. In severe cases total ecological death can occur, aquatic life is suffocated and the watercourse can become unable to support the life within it.”

Environment Agency wildlife officer Karen Fisher said: “People aren’t always aware of the environmental damage they can cause by pouring liquid such as paints and oil down drains or soapy water from washing cars.

“This new initiative will raise awareness that what goes down these roadside drains will end up in our rivers and streams.”
Michael Porritt, Northumbrian Water’s Network Performance Controller, said: “This is a simple and creative way to encourage people to look after the water courses in their local community and it is great that residents in this area support this project.

“Our next step is to do a visual inspection of our sewer network to pinpoint any potential hot spot areas which may be a source of pollution to Stainsby Beck. We will then carry out a survey at properties in these hot spot areas to identify if any of them have waste water pipes incorrectly plumbed into the surface sewer network. Once the survey is done, we will work with residents as they rectify any issues found. We’d like to thank residents for working with us.

“We appreciate that wrong connections may have been made many years ago and property owners may not be aware. They could also have happened accidentally or been made in ignorance or by carelessness when extensions or house alterations were built.”

The Northumbrian Water survey is carried out by lifting manhole covers and suspending cotton pads in the pipes which are later retrieved and scanned using ultra violet light to reveal the tell tale signs of ‘optical brighteners’ now commonly used in washing powder and identifying it as washing machine waste water. Letters will then be delivered and homes visited for detailed inspection with yellow, red and blue dyes used to identify misconnected properties.

For further information contact David Johnson, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, on 01287 636 382.

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