24 delegates attended in person and a further nine joined the online portion of this first hybrid Distinguished Guest Lecture event.
The symposium was opened by Dr Stephanie Powley (Environmental Chemistry Groups Website and Social Media Coordinator), who introduced the first speaker Mr Rob Fryer, who presented ‘Rivers of life?’.
Through an extensive exploration of open water swimming and access, it was shown that open water swimming is a
historical pastime, however, the quality of our waters is now being challenged.
By using technologies such as in situ sensors and satellites, Professor Regan’s team plan to integrate a wealth of different data types to make these predictions. They have also been developing sensors for use in riverine systems for years, starting with tidal trends and looking at basic parameters such as pH, BOD and conductivity. An example was presented where Artificial Intelligence (AI) could predict events through hindsight studies, such as monitoring clusters of basic parameters such as dissolved oxygen, salinity, and temperature. These data showed fluctuations that resulted in an algal bloom in their watershed. If the team had been alerted by AI about warning fluctuations, they would have known to look at chloroform levels, and could have predicted the algal bloom.
With current news often highlighting the impact of river and coastal pollution, Dr Collins discussed the importance of regulation and its associated aspects such as legal requirements, advice and guidance, incentivisation, permitting, compliance, enforcement, and non-regulatory partnerships, for an improved future.
Currently, the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and river basin management plans go hand in hand to improve water quality in the environment. Although just 14% of English rivers are considered “ecologically Good” according to the WFD, there are a range of parameters that state otherwise, e.g. individual tests (with 77% passed), ammonia and invertebrate levels are on the rise. It is also important to note that this approach does work with a significant reduction in serious pollution incidents, down from over 500 cases in 1995 to less than 100 in 2021. This is further reflected in an increase in the “excellent” status of bathing waters.
Through extensive analysis, Professor Kasprzyk-Hordern examined a current global issue – antimicrobial resistance. Research to date shows through resistant gene identification, the endemic correlated to communities, as opposed to antibiotic levels within the surrounding environment. This suggested that there are other drivers for resistance such as activities related to specific communities, for example, agricultural, urban, or rural settings. It is suspected that there is an issue in that the fluctuations of these two aspects (antimicrobial resistance and community activity) are set in different timescales. Antibiotics showed short-term variations, but antibiotic
resistance genes showed much longer-term trends and variations.