River Otter pollution tests begin as ‘citizen science’ project gets under way

A ‘citizen science’ project to assess the level of pollution in the River Otter is about to get under way. 

person Philippa Davieswww.sidmouthherald.co.uk

Armed with water quality testing kits, the Tipton St John environmental group Eager Beavers will start regularly monitoring different sections of the river, using transparent turbity tubes that show the level of sediment present in the water.  

The county councillor for the Otter Valley, Jess Bailey, contributed from her Locality Budget to pay for the testing kits, which arrived this week. 

The group’s co-founder Lisette Johnston said: “I am going to be testing the Metcombe brook outside of my house, so this is one of the tests we perform.  

“We also look at the temperature, total dissolved solids and phosphate levels.  

“The important thing is to test in the same places on a regular basis and monitor levels of pollution, signs of wildlife and invasive species.” 

River pollution can come from fertiliser and pesticides in agriculture and run-off from roads, as well as sewage discharges. The tests will enable the group to establish what kind of pollution is present, and its likely source. 

If the tests reveal serious contamination, the group will take their findings to South West Water and possibly the Environment Agency. 

Meanwhile, the Eager Beavers have been accepted as ambassadors for the East Devon Area of Natural Beauty, and are likely to become involved with a Parish Nature Recovery Project being trialled in Harpford and Newton Poppleford. The project will mainly focus on river corridor and hedgerow management. 

They have just finished a Recycle and Raise initiative, in which plastic waste is collected and sent to a reprocessing centre in Exeter to be made into items such as garden furniture and fence posts. The money raised is donated to MIND and Dartmoor Zoo. 

Lisette added: “We have received a landmark tree from the Devon Wildlife Trust to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, which will be planted in June. In the meantime, we have been clearing verges in Tipton in readiness for planting wildflowers and seeds for the bees and pollinators.” 

The Eager Beavers are also continuing their regular litter picks in Tipton St John, with the next taking place this Sunday, March 6. Lisette will be offering free seeds to people who come along and help. Litter picks and rubbish clearing have been carried out lately in the area; a few weeks ago they removed a tarpaulin from the river Otter at Salston.