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Love Your Lakes: FAQs
|Love Your Lakes: FAQs|
Where do phosphates come from?
Phosphates can be found in many things, but they are getting into our lakes from washing machine and dishwasher detergents, sewage, septic tank run-off and fertilisers. This project is working to reduce the impacts from detergents as work is already being done to address the problems from the other sources.
What is being done to minimise phosphates coming from farming?
The Catchment Sensitive Farming Programme is helping local farmers reduce their environmental impact. It includes managing appropriately the use of fertilisers, manures and pesticides; promoting good soil structure and rain infiltration to avoid run-off and erosion; protecting watercourses from faecal contamination, sedimentation and pesticides; reducing stocking density; managing stock on farms to avoid compaction and poaching of land; and separating clean and dirty water on farms.
What is being done to reduce impact from phosphates from septic tanks?
The Environment Agency are visiting businesses in the catchment area to offer advise on septic tanks to ensure they are correctly maintained in order to minimise the chance of any water pollution. Love your Lakes offers domestic cases advice on how to look after septic tanks to ensure that they are not leaking phosphates into the ground and nearby water sources. It is up to the individual to maintain their septic tank. If you are found contaminating water supplies because your septic tank is not correctly maintained you may be liable for a fine so it’s for your sake as well as the environment’s that you take good care of your septic tank!
I have a septic tank, how do I maintain it?
Arrange for your septic tank to be de-sludged at least once a year. The crust layer at the top should be left to ensure the bacteria in the tank is left intact and breaks down waste properly. In your home or business you can avoid using certain products so that the bacteria in your septic tank is not disrupted – for example, never use chlorine based bleaches as these kill the bacteria needed to break down solids and therefore your tank will not be working properly. See our fact sheets for more information
What is being done at the local Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) to reduce the amount of phosphates getting into the lakes?
I don’t understand. How do my cleaning products actually get into the lakes’ water?
When you flush water and products down the drain or your washing machines and dishwashers are emptied, this water either goes into your own septic tank or package treatment works, or to your local WWTW. This ’grey’ water is treated through bacterial processes until it is pure enough to be released into the earth through reed beds, soak aways (if you have your own septic tank, etc) or into lakes and rivers.
Because the WWTW were built some time ago they were not designed to cope with such high quantities of waste water as the towns have grown around it and tourism has boomed. Therefore high volumes of waste water mean sometimes this water is not fully treated and not all phosphate is removed. Septic tanks are sometimes poorly maintained and when the bacteria are not working properly up to 100% of the phosphates from the waste water is then released. If you look after your own tank well, you can actually remove 100% of phosphates, so it’s important you maintain correctly.
Can you see phosphates in the lakes’ water?
No they are too small to see with the naked eye, but the Environment Agency is constantly monitoring levels of phosphate in our lakes. Of course, what you can see are the blue-green algal blooms which grow when there is too much phosphate in the lakes.
What does blue-green algae look like?
Blue-green algal blooms can adversely affect the appearance, quality and use of water bodies. The water may be discoloured green, blue-green or greenish brown and several species can produce musty, earthy or grassy odours and sometimes cause foaming on the shore-line.
During calm weather, blue-green algal bloom forming species can rise to the water surface to form a scum. This may look like paint or jelly. The colour of scums varies widely depending on the nutrient supply, light intensity and the age of the bloom. Consequently, scums may be blue-green, grey-green, greenish-brown or occasionally reddish-brown.