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Helgoland Marine Research

Open Access

Pulp and paper mill waste pollution in the Swale, a tidal channel on the east coast of England

  • R. S. Millner1
Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen33:BF02414761


The effect of pulp and paper mill waste discharges in the Swale, a tidal channel on the southeast coast of England, has been studied. A pulsing tidal movement in the Swale results in effluent being trapped within the estuary for up to 20 days. This has resulted in adverse effects on the quality of the water and sediment along a substantial part of the estuary with the greatest effect occurring east of the mill in the direction of the residual current. A reduction in the dissolved oxygen concentration occurred along a 13-km stretch of the estuary with mean values falling to 53 % saturation near the mill. High levels of organic matter in the sediment reflect the deposition of material from the mill effluent stream and loss on ignition values of up to 12 % were found east of the mill, falling to 5 % within 4 km northwest of the mill. The macrofauna of the intertidal mudflats was typical of a stressed environment with a low number of species and with a few being represented by large numbers of individuals. The dominant species was the sabellid polychaeteManayunkia aestuarina which reached peak numbers of over 1.5 million m−2, 1.5 km east of the mill. An increase in the total biomass near the mill is thought to be associated with organic enrichment from the mill wastes.