Residents and business owners living near to the River Wye in Monmouthshire say they are growing angry at what they call the constant state of the watercourse, but agencies responsible for its health have said images sent to them are nothing to worry about. Residents who form part of the Friends of the Lower Wye group took various pictures of what they thought was sewage which had risen to the surface of the river this week, but officers for Natural Resources Wales [NRW] say it is a mixture of algae and bacteria.

Members of the Wye group are among many worried about the state of the Wye and levels of phosphates in the river. Algae is a key indicator of phosphates present and the Wye has seen rising levels of algal blooms and decreasing wildlife for years.

It is understood that an increase in intensive poultry farming and dumping near the river has led to pesticides used in the practice running off into the water and effectively choking the river and wildlife. The Environment Agency [EA] which oversees the upkeep of England’s rivers released its own reports suggesting sources of pollution in the Wye come predominantly from agriculture (64%).

The second largest polluter in the river is untreated human sewage. There were 105,000 recorded sewage spills in Wales in 2020. READ MORE: The ‘wild woman’ who swims with a coffin and why she wants change

Simon Maclucas who runs a fishery at Redbrook south of Monmouth sent photos taken by fisherman Peter Wright of scum on the surface of the Wye to the EA and NRW. The photos show a murky and foamy surface, but both agencies agree residents shouldn’t be concerned about those particular images.

Holly Sisley, environment team leader for NRW, said: “On Monday we received reports of a potential pollution incident along the border of the River Wye at Redbrook following sightings of scum on the surface of the water. Officers from NRW attended the site swiftly to carry out an investigation and we can confirm it is not sewage, but a combination of algae and bacteria.

“Similar reports have been received by the Environmental Agency upstream and water samples analysed by the EA have confirmed that the algae is likely to be Oscillatoria, which is non-toxic and can often occur in rivers during hot or sunny weather.”

Members of the group which was formed last year say they are concerned with the foamy surface of the river

An image provided by NRW shows magnification of a colony collected from the Wye at Hoarwithy Bridge last week

An image provided by NRW shows magnification of a colony collected from the Wye at Hoarwithy Bridge last week. The agency said the algae is harmless.

A spokesman for the EA said: “We are aware of this non-toxic algae on the River Wye in Herefordshire at Redbrook and will continue to monitor the area. This kind of situation can often occur during dry weather. If local people have further concerns they should contact our hotline on 0800 807060.”

Mr Maclucas said he did not agree with the findings of the agencies’ investigations. “This is not algae, there is foam on the water,” he said.

“We are very concerned. Nothing is growing here. Ranunculus for example is a vital weed and is pivotal to the ecosystem and at Monmouth there was so much of it you used to be able to walk across it on the river. Now there is none here.

“All the locals will tell you that swans have nested along the river for decades, and yet no swans have nested here now for three years. It’s going to take 20 years or more for the ecosystem to recover.”

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