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The Lasting Effects of the Industrial Revolution of the UK's Rivers.


The ochre coloured waters of the Rheidol are now a thing of the past.

Despite its inception being over 300 years ago, the impact of the Industrial Revolution can still be seen on the UK’s environment, and in particular, its waterways.

According to experts the UK still faces many problems with metals from abandoned mines seeping into waterways, causing drinking water to become contaminated and rivers to face the ongoing threat of pollution.

Nowadays, there are stringent regulations on how a business must deal with the waste that they produce, and the Environment Agency Pollution Prevention Guidelines are the reference by which the issue is policed. However, mines that were abandoned prior to 1999, do not fall under that same strict guidelines that are attributable to mines that became disused after that time.

As a consequence up to 2,000 miles of waterways have become badly polluted by the metals that have leaked out of the mines and into rivers. Known as Acid Mine Drainage, this form of pollution is now becoming a real problem within the UK.

As recently as last year the Environment Agency began an operation to clean up the River Rheidol in Wales. Instead of employing traditional methods of cleaning rivers, such as absorbent booms, they used a ground breaking filter comprised of compost, limestone and cockle shells and were able to reduce the levels of pollution in the river dramatically. The Environment Agency hopes to use this method across Wales to clean 125 miles of rivers to achieve, “good ecological status” by 2015.

Paul Edwards from the Environment Agency commented that:

“if the scheme at Rheidol was implemented at full scale, ...up to 98 tonnes of harmful metals could be prevented from entering the river each year.”

If the operations continue to prove successful, it is likely that this method will be rolled out across the UK.


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