The Tamerton Stream near Plymouth has suffered several pollution incidents over the years.
In August 2016, a pollution incident caused by the build-up of commercial-use wet wipes created a blockage in the sewerage pipe. When this happens, untreated sewage is released into the nearest waterway.
This pollution incident had a substantial impact on the stream, unfortunately killing more than 80 brown trout.
As a result of this incident, an Enforcement Undertaking (EU) was agreed by the Environment Agency with South West Water (SWW) to the value of £350,000.
To help improve the area, SWW used this EU to enable Westcountry Rivers Trust to conduct work to improve the urban watercourses in the Plymouth area, particularly the Tamerton stream,* which has led to the creation of the Plymouth River Keepers (PRK) project.
WRT has often worked with communities to achieve positive results for people and nature and recognises community involvement is vital to the success of PRK.
To assist with community engagement, WRT is collaborating with the Bioregional Learning Centre (BLC). Their expertise lies in building community resilience through Story of Place and multi-stakeholder online conversations or gatherings.
WRT and BLC have previously developed the idea of River Keepers for South Devon, making PRK a natural extension of that work.
This three-year project (2020-2023) aims to show the benefits (health, wellbeing, environmental) that individuals, groups and businesses can gain from connecting water, people and place in this location.
WRT aims to undertake the following actions, which are designed to increase the recovery in fish populations and restore, and improve the resilience of, local streams via engagement with people from the local community:
Baseline data collection (to inform which further surveys are required and potential works to be undertaken):
- Baseline ecological surveys by WRT Evidence and Engagement Officers.
- Water quality sampling by WRT Evidence and Engagement Officers.
- Fish surveys (including electrofishing) by WRT River and Fisheries Officers.
- Litter/ debris removal – to be run as community engagement activities, led by WRT/other.
- Removal of invasive non-native plant species – to be run as community engagement activities, led by WRT/other.
- Areas of bankside erosion to be improved by allowing access to the river via hardstanding, to increase the connection to the water.
- Targeted coppicing to reduce shading in appropriate areas and improve the productivity of the watercourse.
- Investigations of barriers to fish passage to determine the severity of each barrier and to assess the potential for their removal.
- Westcountry CSI (Citizen Science Investigations) – monitoring the river for a variety of reasons such as problem plants to pollution.
- Riverfly surveys – recording freshwater invertebrates to assess the water quality.
- WRT will promote BLC’s engagement opportunities, while overseeing public communications for the project.
* The Environment Agency is responsible for enforcing laws that protect the environment. An EU is a voluntary offer of funds from the responsible party to remedy the effects of an incident such as the pollution incident on the Tamerton Stream. In addition to the EU, South West Water has since cleansed the main sewer line that runs through the woods and this should help reduce the likelihood of any further pollution incidents.