Live investigation to look into river pollution crisis

George Monbiot presents new live documentary investigation into river pollution from farming and sewage.

Environmentalists, celebrities, and journalists are meeting live on air to investigate and uncover the systematic pollution of Britain’s rivers. 

The Guardian columnist George Monbiot, director Franny Armstrong (behind the documentary drama In the Age of Stupid), and singer Charlotte Church are collaborating in the first ever live investigative documentary. 

It’s seeking to bring to light the shocking state of UK rivers as well as a call to action on how the public can help save their local river. 

Farming is to blame for the most of this contamination, with animal manure and slurry regularly finding its way into the water supply, with the average farm likely to be inspected by the Environment Agency once every 263 years, according to the group. 

This is closely followed by raw sewage. Last year alone, raw sewage was released into English rivers over 400,000 times, for over three million hours. It comes as Southern Water was recently awarded a record £90m fine for repeated criminal sewage contamination of coastal waters.

“Britain has some of the most beautiful rivers in Europe,” Monbiot said in the lead-up to the event taking place tonight (14 July) at 7pm. “So how do we celebrate this? Oh yes, by pouring shit into them.” 

Our rivers should be beautiful, complex ecosystems. But on our watch, they’ve become open sewers, poisoned by sewage and farm slurry. They’re dying before our eyes,” said Monbiot, who will present the investigation. 

100 per cent of England’s rivers are above the legal limit for pollution. Credit M.Shattock

“The agencies charged with protecting our rivers have been progressively under-funded and under-resourced and are failing to adequately monitor water quality and enforce action against polluters,” he added.

According to the Environment Agency, 100 per cent of English rivers are polluted above the legal limits.

In what’s being dubbed the first-of-its-kind live-stream investigative documentary, Monbiot and Armstrong are spearheading the effort to find out why. 

“You’d be hard pressed to find a single person in this country who actively wants dirty rivers,” said Armstrong. 

“And yet every single one of the rivers, lakes and streams that’s monitored in England is now polluted. How can that be? That’s the mystery which Rivercide is setting out to solve, live, in real time.”

Singer Church has lent her voice to the mission, performing an original song for the occasion. 

“Every river in the country is now polluted,” Church said on ITV’s This Morning. “They’re such a huge part of the aesthetic of the UK. But so many people are enjoying our rivers, and they’re essential to for a healthy eco-system.

“So, the idea that people are releasing human poo into our rivers is just like, come again?” 

Rivercide will be available to watch live or after the event via a dedicated website


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  1. Not so long ago we were told our rivers were getting better with fish being seen where none had been for a long time. It seems this is not now the case?


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