'Working in the River Severn made me seriously ill': Pollution blamed for man's eight-week infection

Pollution in the River Severn Credit: ITV News Central

A man who became seriously ill with a bacterial infection after spending time in the River Severn has slammed the “disgusting” amount of pollution in the waterways.

Andrew Lovesey has spent eight weeks fighting the bug after first becoming ill in June, having spent much of the previous day going in and out of the water as he built a new private fishing peg on his land in Stourport-on-Severn.

“It was severe sickness and diarrhoea, nausea, just wanting to sleep all the time - I had no energy,” he said.

“It was just a horrible feeling. The thought of eating food was just horrendous, and then I’d start to sweat really bad. It was a nasty bug.

“Every day I thought: ‘Oh, I'll get better tomorrow. I'll get better tomorrow. I'll be okay tomorrow. And it just never did. It just would not go.”

It became so bad that he had to go to A&E, where tests confirmed he had giardiasis - an illness linked to exposure to untreated water.

Andrew Lovesey had been working on a new fishing peg when he became ill Credit: ITV News Central

“I cook my own food, I’m pretty fit and healthy generally - the only difference was that I've been in the river,” he said.

“So I know it's definitely from the river - plus obviously what they've told me and the literature I've got on where it's coming from. Untreated water.”

As for where river pollution comes from, Environment Agency data shows that 18% is urban run-off, 40% is from agriculture, and sewage accounts for 35%.

“I feel disgusted really, because in this day and age we're still pumping raw sewage into our rivers - it's wrong,” Andrew added.

“We’re killing the rivers and it needs to stop.”

Last year, Severn Trent released sewage into the waterways on more than 44,000 occasions, for a total of more than 249,000 hours.

Andrew says it's put him off ever going into the water again Credit: ITV News Central

In a statement, a spokesperson for Severn Trent said there were “many contributing factors” to river health.

They added: “We’re spending a hundred million pounds a year to make rivers as healthy as they can be and in just one year, we’ve reduced our impact by a third.

“So, while we know we have much more to do, others need to play their part too, and we’re absolutely committed to continuing our work with other sectors, such as agriculture.”

Meanwhile, the Environment Agency has said an investigation into water companies is ongoing, while it said it is carrying out thousands of farm inspections a year to tackle the amount of run-off from farmland, such as manure and fertiliser.

But whatever the cause of Andrew’s infection, he said the experience was enough to put him off entering the water in future.

“I used to come out from work getting a penguin and then swim all up the stretch and swim back every night,” he said.

“But now I wouldn't - I would never get into that river again.”