School of Science, Engineering and Environment 26.03.20

New research shows River Keekle could be the most polluted river in England

Research carried out by members from the University of Salford found the Cumbrian river has shed 16 tonnes of plastic waste in the last 30 years since it was installed. Making it the most plastic-polluted river in the country.

Alexander Quinn

Alex Quinn, a final year BSc (Hons) Geography student, carried out the River Keekle research as part of his dissertation project. His project was facilitated by AquaUoS, with assistance from Cockcroft technician, Amy Evans.

AquaUoS is an enterprise centre within the University. It offers an innovative and unique consultancy service connecting environmental managers directly with academics and utilising university skills and resources to drive innovation and improve sustainability on environmental projects.

Speaking about the project, Alex said: “I was invited by AquaUoS to work with them on the project at the start of summer 2019. It allowed me to gain experience in the world of work as well as creating an idea for my dissertation.”

Alex explains that the project was to gain the understanding of the effects of an eroding plastic sheet on the bed of the river that had been placed there in the 1990s.

“My role was to collect a core sample and to analyse the amount of plastic found inside, from there it was possible to quantify the plastic and to gain an understanding about the sheer amount found in the river system,” he said.

The research has since been reported in The Independent.  Alex said: “It is very satisfying to be mentioned in the news and has given myself a lot of confidence that the project has been a success.

Dr Neil S. Entwistle, Director of AquaUoS from the School of Science, Engineering and Environment said: It’s an excellent accolade for the University’s approach to collaborating with industry, where Alex could work with West Cumbria Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency and AquaUoS to quantify the plastic pollution in a Lake District river. This river is scheduled to be restored this year, providing additional opportunities for Salford students and significant improvement to the environment and reducing downstream flood risk.”

Alex added: “AquaUoS have helped massively, since the start of the summer they have guided me along the way and created a great experience, giving the full experience of real working life. If people are interested in working in the consultancy team, I would definitely recommend speaking to them about possible summer placements.

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