Thursday, January 30, 2014

South Today, Watercress and Phillip the Phosphate

Well done to the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Trust for speaking out on BBC’s South Today on Watercress farming introducing excess phosphates into chalkstreams. The Salmon and Trout association who are rarely off the target also chipped in. H&IOWT have received mixed reviews in these parts over the years but they did get this one right and resisted the temptation to illustrate their point by dressing a minion up as Phillip the Phosphate ion chasing Charlie Chalkstream around with a stick

The big surprise was the CEO of a leading producer of watercress admitting that his business was part of the problem, A remarkable "mea culpa" by the bagged salad supremo on tea time TV that left me chocking on my chicken,

although there was a promise to solve the problematic phosphate pollution in the future through recirculation (phosphate strippers anyone, do they work?)

A genuine effort from the watercress boys? in which case well done!or something akin to Hannibal Lecter promising to chew his liver a little longer,the jury’s out, on an industry that,in these parts, has nothing to fear but the sky falling on its head.

It was widely reported in local and national press that at a recent foundation meeting hosted by Europe's leading grower and packer of bagged salad, all who attended concluded that Dishwasher tablets were the problem, I don’t wish to repeat myself

Well ok then

Monday 2nd December

Europe’s premium washer and packer of bagged salad and leading grower of watercress, who last year sent oodles of diesel down the neighbouring Bourne, for which they received a derisory fine, held their annual meeting on what to do about saving the chalkstreams. I didn’t expect an invite , but several attended and the oodles of publicity that graced both national and local press pointed the finger of the chalkstream’s travails and increased levels of phosphates at those using dishwasher tablets that drained into a septic tank and soakaway . There were some big names in the house and call me a cynic but there didn’t seem to be much discussion in the minutes on contribution to the phosphate loads of the river caused by the production of watercress.”

Worryingly the South Today report, while initially talking of chalkstreams only mentioned the river Itchen and not the Test, on which many principle watercress production sites sit.

They are a major employer in the area and have made significant contributions to the local community but if a market leader admits to causing problems it must take a lead in the sorting those problems out. I like Watercress, I like that the fact that watercress production has a rich heritage in this area, but in modern times sustainability is everything and to send too many phosphates down a SSSI is, like Crimplene trousers, the Melatron and Manhatten Transfer, a little bit Sixties and Seventies and not quite what is required by big business in modern times.

But well done for fessing up on TV and to The H&IOWT and The S&TA for highlighting the problem.

Will a prosecution for chronic phosphate pollution follow?

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