Green team monitor water quality levels after pollution fears

Volunteers monitor water quality levels in the River Kit at Chardstock

Volunteers monitor water quality levels in the River Kit at Chardstock - Credit: Vicky Whitworth

A team of volunteers has started monitoring water quality levels in the River Kit in Chardstock, following nationwide concerns about the discharge of pollutants into rivers. 

Chardstock Eco Group is co-ordinating the project with the guidance of the Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT), which aims to restore and protect the rivers, lakes, and estuaries of the region for the benefit of nature, people, and local economies. 

Local residents in Chardstock have been following the recent parliamentary debates about discharging raw sewage into rivers and the sea, and have been wondering how clean is the River Kit. 

“A rural river like the Kit has its sewage problems mainly from faulty septic tanks.  But the main concern is run-off from fields when it rains heavily. 

“We decided to start a citizens’ science monitoring project to find out what’s going on,” said Vicky Whitworth who is co-ordinating the volunteers. 

“We’ll be carrying out monthly monitoring along the Kit. This will look at the water quality, the wildlife in and around the river, phosphate content and try to spot any pollution incidents – like sewage smells which need investigation. 

“We need answers about the state of our river to alleviate concerns about possible health risks, and the impact on fish and other aquatic life. Monitoring the river quality is just one of the things we can do to make things better for both humans and nature.”

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WRT has been running its leading Westcountry Citizen Science Investigations volunteer project since 2016. 

Simon Browning, senior monitoring officer at WRT, said: “We are always delighted when people want to take a proactive approach to looking after their local rivers and waterways and we are looking forward to supporting the River Kit Monitoring Project in surveying the river habitat and testing water quality. 

“With more than 850 waterbodies across the West Country, our active citizen scientists make a vital contribution to our understanding of the pressures they face, with data informing our work and having the potential to influence policy.” 

The River Kit Monitoring Project will be using test kits partly funded by the Blackdown Hills AONB and Chardstock Parish Council. 

To kick-start the Monitoring Project volunteers were led on a walk along the river by members of the Axe Vale Rivers Association who showed the team how to spot places where sea trout are spawning at this time of year. 

“It is the first time I feel that I have really looked at the river to understand what is going on…we are so fortunate to have such a feature in our valley and there is real hope for improvements to be made,” said Chardstock resident Paul Hughes who joined the walk.   

Anyone interested in learning more about the project should email Chardstock Eco Group member Vicky Whitworth @ vicky@essenceconsulting.co.uk