A shellfish business owner who works with over 100 oyster fisherman says claims that the River Fal is the most polluted river in the country are "absolute rubbish".

However, Martin Laity, owner of Sailors Creek Shellfish based in Flushing, says what South West Water are doing by allowing waste water to pour into the Fal was "totally unacceptable".

The response comes after the Independent newspaper and website claimed that it had evidence gleaned from unpublished Environment Agency figures from last year that the River Fal site was the most polluted site in the country.

Falmouth Packet: Paul ArmstrongPaul Armstrong (Image: Paul Armstrong)

The River Fal viewed from Mylor Harbour

Last year, storm overflows pumped wastewater into the river, which is an area of outstanding natural beauty for nearly 7,500 hours – more than ten months of the year.

Falmouth Packet: Paul ArmstrongPaul Armstrong (Image: Paul Armstrong)

Martin Laity, left, set up Sailors Creek Shellfish with his business partner Tom Knights

But Mr Laity says while what South West Water are doing by allowing the spills was unacceptable, in no way was the River Fal the most badly polluted in the country.

"That's absolute rubbish," he said. "The River Fal is spread over the whole Fal area. It is unacceptable what South West Water are doing it on that scale and they shouldn't be getting away with it and it has got to stop, but the River Fal is not heavily polluted.

"I haven't seen any change in the water quality. We are currently categorising the waters off of Flushing and they are coming up as category A.

"What South West Water are doing is really bad and they are doing it en-masse on a scale never seen before and they are getting away with it, but the River Fal is not heavily polluted."

At a meeting of Falmouth Town Council last night, Labour town and county councillor Jayne Kirkham said it was about time the government did something about the situation.

"Sewage outfalls are going into our rivers and beaches and it has been reported that the River Fal is the most polluted in the country. There is also discharge onto Gylly Beach, but because of cuts to some monitoring sites, they are not even monitored any more.

"We use our water all the time, not only the residents but the visitors. We have got Fal Oysters in the Fal and there are lots of other reasons why we want to keep our blue flag on Gylly Beach and keep our water clean. That is really important.

"We are hoping that the government is going to move towards stopping this, investing in our water and our water supply so we don't have this needless discharge into the river we are trying to get something done about it."

Falmouth Packet: Paul ArmstrongPaul Armstrong (Image: Paul Armstrong)

The River Fal

Dr Laurence Couldrick, Chief Executive Officer of the Westcountry Rivers Trust, which is responsible for the area, said seeing a river in its region classed as having the highest CSO spill duration in England is "dismaying".

"This isn’t about the River Fal being the most polluted in the UK but rather the river suffering from the longest duration of a Combined Sewage Overflow (storm drains) spilling in the UK," he said. "The Event Duration Monitoring that water companies do and submit to the EA only shows frequency and length of spills but crucially not volume, loading and receiving water body quality and quantity so the exact impact is variable. "This doesn’t by any mean condone spillage, as all pollution is bad but in the case of the Fal the river is better quality than others, but sewage is still an issue."

A South West Water spokesperson said: “As part of our commitment to protecting the natural environment, we are delivering our largest environmental investment programme in 15 years.

"This will dramatically reduce our use of storm overflows, maintain our region’s excellent bathing water quality standards all year round, and remove our impact on river water quality by 2030.”


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A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told The Independent: “Sewage overflows are a Victorian infrastructure issue.

“We are the first government to take action to tackle it, and our plan represents the largest infrastructure programme in water company history. We have been clear the use of overflows is completely unacceptable.”