Report No FR0440
FINAL SUMMARY REPORT ON AESTHETIC POLLUTION
The regulatory authorities and utility companies have knowledge about the extent of, and the public's perception of, aesthetic pollution. This will assist in the development of standards, and in the identification of future management and operational practices.
To provide information to support the derivation of standards for aesthetic pollution, and to identify the most suitable control strategies to limit sewage derived aesthetic pollution.
Public perception of water quality is related to the amount of aesthetic pollution. Improvements made by the utility companies in terms of effluent quality determinands such as BOD may not be immediately obvious to the public. There is a need to determine the extent of the problem, and the public's perception of aesthetic pollution before the NRA sets standards for aesthetic pollution.
This is the final report in a series of three reports on aesthetic pollution produced under this project. This report summarises the findings of the previous two, and introduces additional information.
The background to the project on aesthetic pollution is introduced,: and the relevance of the Statutory Water Quality Objectives and the proposed General Quality Assessment scheme outlined. A brief review of sewage derived aesthetic pollution is given, referring to NRA complaints registers and quantitative surveys of riverine litter. The results from surveys of public perception of aesthetic pollution on river banks and beaches which have been carried out under this project are summarised, and finally potential control strategies are discussed and a preferred solution identified.
- The main sources of riverine litter are from fly-tipping and sewage derived inputs. The majority of the litter which is visible is plastics which degrade slowly and tend to float on the water surface and become trapped on the bankside vegetation.
- The NRA receives numerous reports of pollution incidents from the general public. Most are Category 3 incidents, which are unlikely to affect water quality over a long period.
- The visual state of the water is the most important factor in influencing the public's perception of water quality. The presence of gross solids on river banks and beaches have far less impact on the perception by the public of water quality than their presence in the water.
- Sewage derived contaminants have a much greater negative impact on the public's enjoyment of a visit to a river or beach than any other aesthetic pollution indicator.
- Sewage derived products are not regularly seen, or at least not recognised, by the public. There is also an unwillingness to talk about products such as sanitary towels and condoms. However, when identified, condoms appear to have less of a negative impact than female sanitary products which may in part be due to the lower number which are generally found.
- A large proportion of the public does not associate the presence of sewage derived material in the water or on the beach or river bank as coming from the water.
- The public considered that more, or improved sewage treatment including screens would be the most effective solution to the problem of sewage derived contamination. Legislation and improved consumer awareness would also be effective.
- The practice of cleaning up deposited litter to prevent aesthetic pollution is unlikely to be effective, since rapid deposition of further material is likely.
- The most effective means of limiting aesthetic pollution is by control at source, which will require a change in behaviour by the majority of the British public.
- The NRA should standardise the form in which different regions record pollution incidents to allow more effective use of the data.
- There should be a joint campaign between the NRA, manufacturers of sanitary products and the Water Utilities to promote the disposal of sanitary products via the domestic waste system.
- River basins with public access should be brought within the scope of the Tidy Britain Group's "Peoples and Places" programme.
Copies of the report are available from FWR, price £15.00, less 20% to FWR Members.