sewage River Irwell

Featured image taken by Tim Green, Flickr.

In 2023 there were nearly 12,000 recorded sewage spills in the River Irwell according to new data released last week.

Overall, the new data has revealed that 2023 was the worst year to date for stormwater pollution, with rivers in the north of England experiencing the highest rates of waste discharge in the country.

In 2022 there were 7,168 sewage spills into the Croal Irwell catchment area, according to Environment Agency data analysed by the Guardian.

In 2023 the amount of spills had risen to 11,974. This is the highest rate of sewage spills in all English rivers when accounting for length, at 95 spills per mile.

23-year-old Ben Allan lives on Ordsall Lane next to the River Irwell in Salford. He said: “These figures are shocking.

“The water could definitely be cleaner and maybe could be treated a bit more and filtered with some nets to get the rubbish that collects there.

“Sometimes flies come and collect around the water, which is gross. I also saw a trolley in there the other day, so there are things like that which are starting to really irk the community.”

Ben however did state that he doesn’t think the wildlife surrounding the Irwell has been affected by the sewage. “The wildlife here is still really good, I do appreciate looking at the variety of birds in the water, especially when going on my runs,” Ben added.

Salford Quays Labour candidate for the local elections, Liz McCoy, said: “In 2023 we saw just shy of 12,000 releases of raw sewage into the Irwell that runs through the heart of Salford and the Quays.

“The fact that any raw sewage is dumped in our waters should shock us all.

“I have spoken to residents who have told me they use the Watersports Centre on the Quays and use the Irwell when rowing. They are rightly concerned and asked why this has been allowed to happen.

“We’ve got to insist that the right to clean waters is a priority.”

 sewage River Irwell
Image of the River Irwell taken by Peter McDermott.

Other candidates have been contacted to comment on the matter.

United Utilities, which manages the water network in the region, has faced much criticism for their handling of the sewage.

The company claims that there will be a 60 per cent reduction in spills of sewage by 2030. This is part of an ambitious £13.7 billion investment plan to deliver cleaner rivers and more reliable water supplies in the North West.

A spokesperson for United Utilities said: “We’ve been listening to customers and communities right across our region to understand what really matters. What’s clear is that we need to improve services for customers and the environment.

“This money will help improve more than 300 miles of river, ranging from the River Kent in Cumbria to the Irwell, which flows through counties of Lancashire and Greater Manchester.”


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