More than 500 yellow fish are to appear in unusual places across Cramlington.
The fish are to encourage people to think about what they put down surface water drains. They are designed to highlight and reduce the significant negative impact that misconnected waste water plumbing in homes and businesses, and the misuse of road gullies, can have on the local aquatic environment.
Road gullies are designed to only drain surface water into surface water drains and sewers. This water is often returned back to the environment, untreated. However, there has been evidence in the burn of brown substances coming from the outfall, visible milky white liquid, detergent, blue liquid and oil.
The three-and-a-half-inch diameter plaques, which feature the fish and the words ‘DON’T POLLUTE – DRAINS TO RIVER’, will be installed next to road gullies near Horton Burn and have been met with positive public reception.
Youngsters from two local schools, Northburn Primary and Eastlea Primary, took part in the unveiling of the first fishy plaque today (Tuesday, May 24) on Edgefield Drive, Cramlington, alongside representatives of Northumbrian Water, the Environment Agency and Northumberland Wildlife Trust, who are working in partnership on the initiative.
As part of Northumbrian Water’s Just An Hour volunteering programme, six employees spent five hours working alongside people from the Environment Agency and Northumberland Wildlife Trust clearing stretches of the banks of the burn and litter picking.
The Living Waterways Project’s main aim is to create new wildlife habitats and reduce pollution to water courses from urban areas. It is a partnership initiative between Northumbrian Water, Northumberland Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency and is being delivered in conjunction with the national ConnectRight campaign.
ConnectRight is the public face of the National Misconnections Strategy Group. It’s a partnership of organisations who are working to reduce water pollution from drains and sewers. For more information go to http://www.connectright.org.
Youngsters attending the unveiling of the first fish were given a demonstration of the danger of misconnections. This followed awareness events held at the schools in recent months.
Steve Robson, Northumbrian Water’s technical support team leader, said: “The introduction of the yellow fish is a simple and creative way to encourage people to look after the water courses in their local community. It’s great to get support from the local community, young and old.
“We appreciate that wrong connections may have been made many years ago and predate current property owners, who may not be aware. They could also have happened accidentally or been made in ignorance or by carelessness when extensions or house alterations were built, so we are keen to explore any potential misconnections and make Horton Burn a healthier part of the local environment.
“As well as this, it is important for people to remember to take similar care at home, and to understand that only pee, poo and toilet paper should go down the loo.”
Paul Fairbairn, Environment Officer at the Environment Agency, said: “This initiative is a great opportunity to engage with residents raising awareness of what can cause pollution . We work hard with Northumbrian Water among others to improve water quality and minimise pollution in urban areas, but we need the local community to play their part.
“Together we can reduce the risk of pollution incidents in our streams and rivers and keep improving our local environment.”
Sarah Beeson, Northumberland Wildlife Trust Conservation Officer said: “What a great way to draw people’s attention to this issue. I’m hoping the people of Cramlington get behind it. It’s great to get the local school children involved and, who knows, one of them may be the next David Attenborough or Chris Packham.”
Baths, toilets, washing machines and dishwashers, which are connected to surface water sewer systems, pollute rivers and beaches, damage wildlife and put health at risk. They should instead be connected to the foul sewerage network so the waste water goes to sewage works for safe treatment. Gutters and downpipes taking rain from roofs which are wrongly connected to the foul instead of surface water sewerage systems can contribute to flooding.