3 November 2023
by Sarah Morgan

Pollution case launched against the UK Government

A legal challenge is being brought against the UK Government's microplastics policy by the campaign group Fighting Dirty.

© Photo by Marc Newberry on Unsplash

George Monbiot, a British writer known for his environmental and political activism, Georgia Elliott-Smith and Steve Hynd are the main figures behind Fighting Dirty. They are using the law to hold the government to account on pollution.

The campaign group says there are no legal limits to the amount of contaminant chemicals that can be present in landspreading sludge.

The group is going to take the Environment Agency (EA) and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to court, demanding they urgently update the rules for testing and regulating sewage sludge and other landspreading wastes.

According to the group, in addition to widespread contamination with organic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), investigators have discovered that almost all treated sludge samples they tested contained the weedkiller glyphosate and the antimicrobial triclosan, which scientists believe may cause antibiotic resistance

They have launched a funding campaign to support the legal case.

The group highlights that the EA has been aware of this problem since 2017, when their experts warned that the decades-old rules governing sludge spreading were in need of reform to protect human and environmental health.

In 2020, they highlight that the EA published a strategy for safe and sustainable sludge, stating 'the do-nothing option is unacceptable', and that regulations would be introduced by 2023.

In August 2023, after the campaign group wrote to the EA to ask about their progress, the strategy was reportedly updated, removing the deadline date and failing to provide a new timeline for action.