Microplastic pollution in the River Tame is the highest recorded anywhere in the world
Tuesday 13th March 2018 @ 16:06 by Tom Greggan
News Tameside

The River Tame has the worst levels of microplastic pollution ever recorded anywhere in the world according to study published in Nature GeoScience.

A research team from the University of Manchester analysed sediments in ten rivers in the North West, with the River Tame containing 517,000 microplastic particles per square metre, in the top 10cm of riverbed.

That is almost double the previous record of 286,000 per square metre found on beaches in South Korea in 2015.

Tameside Council described the findings as “very concerning”. A spokesperson said: “The Environment Agency is the lead on this and has a duty to monitor water quality in rivers. We are liaising with them to take appropriate action.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We are working with the water industry and leading academics to investigate the types and quantities of microplastics entering the environment. This research will feed into plans to tackle this type of pollution at the source. Plastic pollution is a threat to our natural environment and by working together, we can reduce the amount which enters our land, rivers and the sea and protect wildlife for future generations.”

The team took new samples after heavy flooding in 2015/16 and found that around 70% of the microplastics had been washed away, most into the sea.

Much of the pollution came from microbeads in skincare products and cosmetics, which were banned in the UK in January.

Researchers believe that likely sources of the contamination are nearby industrial sites, storm water drains and sewage overflow pipes connected to local homes and businesses.

The Tameside Green Party reacted angrily to the news. “We have long campaigned for the protection of the Green Belt, much of which is situated along the river valleys, both during election campaigns and also with other campaigning groups,” a statement read.

“The Green Belt is an important protection for wildlife and people and their interdependency. However in the past Tameside Council has given planning permission for housing development on the Green Belt and is set to do so in the future. This must contribute to the shocking levels of microplastic pollution found in the River Tame.

“The Tame Valley is host to many industries which are also involved in this pollution – the Council must begin to ensure that industries play their part in the necessary clean up. According to the report, the winter floods of 2015-2016 played a part in sweeping the particles to the sea – cutting down trees, which is happening now in Tameside, must be stopped and more trees planted to act as barriers to flooding. Again Tameside Green Party has long campaigned to have more trees in our area. Our environment is so important to us all and cannot be ignored.”