The growing popularity of DIY, encouraged by an “explosion” in daytime TV programs on property, is leading to raw sewage being increasingly pumped into Britain’s rivers, killing wildlife.
Botched plumbing jobs mean that foul water that should be piped into the sewage system is being fed into ground and coastal waters. According to the Marine Conservation Society, the growing problem is causing the degradation of the country’s smaller rivers and threatening invertebrate ecosystems and depleting fish stocks, including salmon, trout, perch and pike.
Thames Water alone believes that in its region — serving 14 million customers in London and the Thames Valley — one in every 10 homes now have misconnected drains.
In 2009 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) warned that 300,000 properties in England and Wales had misconnected pipes, and predicted that this figure would rise to 500,000 by 2015. However, there are fears that the problem could become even greater, with experts claiming that the popularity of DIY is partly to blame.
“As DIY has become more popular over the years, aided by an explosion in property programs on television, the problem has been growing. People see a pipe, think it’s the right one to attach to, and untreated water from washing machines, but also toilets, ends up going to the wrong place,” said Robert Keirle, pollution program manager at the Marine Conservation Society.
“It is also probably a result of the times we live in, with people unable to afford to call in tradesmen to do the plumbing,” he said.
Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust, said his members had seen a change in popular fishing spots, particularly in inner cities.
“The sewage removes oxygen, encouraging eutrophication, meaning that it grows a lot of algae and the water becomes stagnant,” Lloyd said.
“It changes the ecosystem and the invertebrates. You get a very bland range, such as leeches and blood worms, as compared to mayfly, olives and baetis, which are crucial for young fish,” he said. “There is also the problem of endocrine disrupters, which is the impact of such things as contraceptive pills which can change the sex of the fish.”
The coalition government is currently consulting on a strategy for dealing with water pollution from homes and businesses.