Environment Agency taken to court over chicken poo pollution in the River Wye

Protesters, including singer Feargal Sharkey, gathered outside the Cardiff Civil Justice court for the hearing. Credit: River Action/PA Wire

The River Wye has become an "ecological crisis" after years of the unregulated discharge of untreated sewage, according to a charity taking the Environment Agency to court.

River Action has brought legal proceedings against the regulatory body, accusing them of not doing enough to prevent chicken poo from getting into the river.

Several protesters from the charity, including Feargal Sharkey, gathered outside of the Cardiff Civil Justice Centre supporting the legal case, which opened on Wednesday, 7 February.

The Environment Agency says anyone breaking the law will face "enforcement action", including prosecution.

The charity alledge that the Environment Agency has acted unlawfully. Credit: River Action/PA Wire

River Action's case argues the Environment Agency has not upheld a law designed to prevent pollution.

They say already saturated farmland has been added to with chicken manure, which means excess chemicals have been "running off" into the river.

The Environment Agency has a legal responsibility to uphold a law known as the "Farming Rules for Water", which was introduced in 2018.

This law is designed to protect waterways from agricultural pollution.

The charity boss, Charles Watson, said, “The agonising death of the River Wye has unfolded in recent years like a car crash in slow motion.

"This magnificent watercourse, so often voted our country’s most loved river, has in recent years been assaulted by a deluge of pollution from intensive agriculture, causing prolonged algal blooms."

The Environment Agency told ITV they could not comment on the active legal proceedings.

In a statement it said, "Since 2021 we have performed more than 7,000 farm inspections and required farmers to carry out over 11,400 improvement actions, including around the River Wye.

“Anyone caught breaching environmental laws faces enforcement action, up to and including prosecution."

The River Wye runs along the border between Wales and England.

The Environment Agency oversees environmental protection in England. In Wales, Natural Resources Wales is responsible for these regulations. However, River Action argues because the majority of the "Lower Wye" is in England it is the responsibility of The Environment Agency.

The hearing is ongoing.

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