The boss of Chester Zoo is calling on Welsh Water to “stop the discharge of sewage” into the River Dee

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Posted by: Saturday, August 27, 2022

The boss of Chester Zoo has written to Welsh Water over the “unacceptable discharge” of sewage into the River Dee, which poses a “significant risk” to wildlife, including endangered insect species.

The zoo is actively involved in conservation efforts to save the Scarce Yellow Sally Stonefly, which is on the verge of extinction in the UK. The endangered species was rediscovered in the UK in 2017 after a 22-year absence.

The Scarce Yellow Sally Stonefly – found only in the River Dee – is one of the rarest stoneflies in the UK and Europe and its rediscovery is of international importance, the most westerly point in Europe.

The zoo boss also said sewage discharged into the River Dee posed a continuing threat to declining birds such as the red grebe, curlew, black-tailed godwit and grebe.

A sewage discharge warning via water quality mapping was launched last week for a section of the River Dee between Eccleston and Groves Chester.

Surfers Against Sewage has created an interactive map that tracks CSOs (combined sewer overflows) and PRFs (pollution risk forecasts) in real time.

The map is part of the charity’s Safe Seas and Rivers Service.

Alerts are triggered when sewage has entered the water within the last 48 hours.

Jamie Christon, chief executive of Chester Zoo, has now written to his colleague at Dwr Cymru/ Welsh Water, Peter Perry, about the “unacceptable sewage discharge” into the River Dee last week.

Mr Christon writes: “As you know, the River Dee is of international importance for biodiversity and is a significant natural resource both locally and nationally.”

“Your discharge site is just a few miles upstream of the Dee Estuary Special Area of ​​Conservation, a Special Area of ​​Conservation and a Ramsar site.”

“These designations reflect the international importance of the Dee estuary and lower river basin for rare and endangered birds such as the red tern and curlew. black-tailed godwit and shrew, as well as for declining habitats including salt marsh, Atlantic salt marshes and mudflats.

“I’m sure you can appreciate this environmental pollution, putting these species and others into the NSK and weakening the protection afforded.”

“The River Dee itself is surrounded by a number of SSSI designations across England and Wales and is home to important populations of wildlife, including declining invertebrates such as the Scarce Yellow Stonefly, which was rediscovered in the river in 2017.”

The River Dee is the only known site for this endangered species in the UK.

The letter goes on to say: “At Chester Zoo we are actively involved in conservation efforts to save the Scarce Yellow Stonefly, which is threatened with extinction in the UK.”

“While we can help with our livestock and breeding expertise at Chester Zoo, ultimately we rely on a clean and healthy environment along the river itself to allow populations to successfully recover in the wild.”

“Along with many other aquatic invertebrates that support the aquatic food chain, stoneflies require clean, pollution-free conditions to thrive.”

“Sewage discharges at any point along the river pose a significant threat to these species and those higher up the food chain, such as fish and otters.”

Mr. Christo’s letter states, “While we understand the pressure the recent dry conditions have placed on our wastewater system, we believe it is unnecessary to allow the discharge of untreated sewage in light of the alternatives available through Sustainable Drainage Systems that can be designed to manage stormwater locally.”

“We are currently supporting action to create more wetlands and drainage-friendly habitats along our Nature Recovery Corridor, which follows the line of the Shropshire Union Canal from Ellesmere Port to Chester.”

“This is a partnership project with CWaC, the Countess of Chester Country Park Land Trust and the Canal and River Trust, funded by the Green Restoration Challenge Fund.”

Mr Christon said: “We believe the current situation is completely unacceptable and would like to know what Dwr Cymru is doing, both in the short term and as part of your long-term strategy to stop sewage being discharged into the river in Chester. Our waterways are clean and healthy.”

Our sister site Deeside.com has approached Welsh Water for comment.

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