City of Durham and Labour MP Mary Foy has raised concerns about “dangerous” levels of pollution in the River Wear, during a session in Parliament earlier this week.
The concerns were raised after Ms Foy was contacted by pupils of St Thomas More Primary School, who wrote to Foy after they visited the riverbanks on a fieldtrip. Headteacher Tom Hunt explained to The Northern Echo that “A fieldwork study they [the pupils] undertook inspired them to act and write to Mary”, who has since “championed their cause and has proved to them that their voices have been heard”.
Speaking at Questions to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affiars, Ms Foy asked “Following their field trip to the River Wear last month, Year 5 and 6 pupils at St Thomas More School in Belmont were saddened by the levels of pollution in the River Wear, especially the amount of plastic — so they’ve asked me to come here today ‘to keep everyone on the right track’!
“So can the minister tell the pupils of St Thomas More school, what the Government plans to do to help clean up the River Wear in order to protect local wildlife and preserve the beauty of the riverside?”
In response, Rebecca Pow MP, the Junior Minister for Nature, Recovery and Domestic Environment, said that “This Government is absolutely on river and water pollution and indeed our new proposed targets to reduce the amount of pollution in rivers such as the Wear, in old, abandoned mining areas, by 50 per cent by 2030 will make a genuine difference, as well as the raft of our other measures to tackle storm sewage overflows.”
Speaking to Palatinate, Flo Wright on behalf of Eco Durham reacted to the statement by saying, “At ECO DU we are so pleased that MP Mary Foy listened to the Year 5 and 6 pupils about the matter of plastic pollution.
“Youth engagement concerning the environment is vital, as this planet will be inherited by them. We too would like to hear from the Government about plans to clean up the river, but we also accept that as the student body we have a huge responsibility for the state of our city.
“Most of us have seen popular student places such as Observatory Hill or The Racecourse covered in litter, much of which will end up in the river. As the weather is getting better, we implore students to pick up after themselves.”
Ms Foy has since promised to raise this issue further by “taking their [pupils] concerns to Durham County Council and the Environment Agency so that actions can be taken to improve our riverside.”
It was reported in the Hansard that the Government is working with the Coal Authority and Northumbrian Water to reduce pollution, along with monitoring pollution levels in the River Wear.
It comes as a report by the Coal Authority published in December last year found that 80km of the River Wear are polluted by substances including zinc, cadmium and lead.
Image: Venus Loi