A wee story about Kent water

by Clem Rutter, Rochester, Kent cc in creative commons

I have a horrid hunch about Sevington Lorry Park and the Environmental Impact report they won’t release…it is all about the drivers’ pee.

We’ve known for years that Kent has never had enough toilet facilities for lorry drivers. Under Operation Brock, there were plans for more portable loos, but they are now elsewhere, taken by the building contractors who need them all in these lockdown times.

Then the lorry park opened last month. I bet some of those drivers turning off at Junction 10a of the M20 are not just visiting the site with a bunch of customs papers.

My hunch is connected to the other mysterious story wafting around local news, about housing projects in the Stour catchment area being halted because of pollution at Stodmarsh, the nature reserve near Canterbury. Now this story is not just about saving some Schedule 1 wetland birds, like the bearded tit.

The eutropification of the water (which means it is being deoxygenated by algae) is a symptom of worrying pollution in the whole catchment area.

Now what causes that? Water pollution measurements look at nitrates, phosphorus and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD – basically the amounts of dissolved oxygen needed to remove waste organic matter in the water). Although some of this pollution will come from agricultural run-offs into surface water, most of it comes from the discharges of waste water works.

I was appalled to learn from the recent Panorama programme on river pollution (still available on iPlayer), just how lax UK regulations are on these discharges.

Algae at Sissinghurst, Kent 2007 taken by Aldisley cc.commons

A water engineer stated that, “The Stour suffers from high nitrates during low flow conditions as a large proportion of the flow is accounted by effluent discharges from waste water treatment works,” and attached a 176-page detailed and technical KCC report on Kent Water Resilience, published in 2017.

This report is reassuring in that it shows how water engineers and planners are doing the sums with regard to water resilience in Kent for the coming decades. The need for new builds has to be balanced by reduction in water consumption, both by existing users and in the new housing. So every planning application has to fit with the detailed water resilience plans specific to each catchment and treatment area.

Now the Sevington lorry park was rushed into construction as a special development project, probably by-passing all these planning restrictions. So now the efflux from it into the Stour is possibly exceeding the predictions. If you think this hunch is fake news, then just file it in your head as being from the bendy banana school of journalism!

But it’s worth keeping tabs on the story of Kent water resilience as alarm bells are ringing and it hasn’t rained enough this April.