WE were dismayed to discover how little Sir Bill Wiggin seems to understand about the causes of the Wye’s dramatic decline (Talking Point, September 1).

It’s not “the media” blaming farmers. The Environment Agency says that more than two-thirds of the phosphorus pollution on the Wye comes from the farming sector.

Furthermore, the scientists behind the RePhoKUs study discovered that poultry manure is the largest source of phosphorus in the Wye catchment.

Twenty million chickens produce more manure than the land can absorb, so the excess leaches into rivers.


It’s not about “individual farmers” polluting the river, it’s a systemic problem. We’ll send Sir Bill a copy of the report, because he either hasn’t read it or hasn’t understood it.

Of course, Welsh Water must do more to clean up its act, but the bigger problem is livestock manure.

While manure can be a valuable fertiliser, too much becomes a waste product which pollutes.

Avara may now be exploring technological solutions to strip the phosphorus from its manure, but it has watched this problem accumulate for years whilst doing nothing.

Anaerobic digesters bring other hazards – they drive more maize growth, contributing to dangerous levels of soil erosion, polluting our rivers and increasing flood risk.


While Sir Bill thinks we should be grateful to companies like Avara (responsible for the vast majority of Herefordshire’s chickens) because it has “invested” in our county, we see that it has extracted huge profits while leaving the rest of us to pay the environmental costs.

It is impoverishing us of what should be our natural inheritance – a beautiful river. Sir Bill’s final line about actions that “we, the public, could be taking’”is a tragic misdirection.

Yes, we should all try to limit our water use (especially in the drought) and avoid polluting products – and his Government could start by banning wet wipes – but really, our county has a population of about 190,000 people and 18,000,000 chickens.

They say the waste of four chickens is equivalent to one person. Just do the sums! Please, Sir Bill, stop pinning the blame on the wrong targets or we’ll never clean up the mess.


River campaigners


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