United Utilities water pollution is a real problem in Liverpool

Increasing amounts of raw sewage is entering the Mersey and then into the Irish Sea. Liverpool talks a good game on climate change but fails to act as positively as it could should do

Liberal Democrats were delighted that a motion that we moved at Council, and which was referred to the last meeting of the Climate Change Select Committee, was approved unanimously and the series of actions which we had proposed therefore in the latter part of the motion were also unanimously agreed.

However, our pleasure turned to dismay when we looked at tonight’s agenda for the same committee and find no trace of any of the actions that we unanimously agreed had been acted upon.

River pollution immediately affects all the wards from Speke to Kirkdale which border the river. If you live near the outflow pipes the stench can be dreadful. The effects on the water last longer. Over almost 50 years from the mid-seventies the Mersey was improving its water quality and wildlife quality due to concerted actions which started when the water to our region was still controlled by the public sector led by a consortium of councillors from all over the region.

Much of that work was continued when water, a basic function, moved into the private sector. So far so good! Unfortunately, however the capital investment needed to deal with the changes in our climate has not kept up with need. We now get more episodic weather in which substantial amounts of time with no rain are replaced by much more short term and violent rainfall occurs.

This overwhelms the ability of our sewage treatment centres such as the one at Sandon Dock and the untreated sewage automatically goes into the river and then the sea because it has nowhere else to.

This was avoidable. The changes in climate patterns have not happened overnight. The changes are accelerating but the direction has been clear for the last decade. United Utilities fail to react either to the problems of sewage or the other side of the problem, the failure to deal with the leakage of good water from a creaking infrastructure.

20 yds from where I live there is a low-level leakage in the street which I first reported 6 months ago. United Utilities have been out to look at twice. They have marked out the area that needs attention with white Paint, they are a bit like the Council! But no work has taken place. Tens of thousands of gallons of fresh water have been lost in that time.

That is why we should challenge United Utilities to appear before the Committee and explain their short comings to the people that pay for their services. They need to explain why they have not thought ahead and provided proper investment instead of enhancing the pockets of shareholders.

Here though the failure is that of the Council. Having unanimously agreed something which had no immediate cost implications they should have carried through the motions (pun intended!) and presented the requested challenges to OFWAT and United Utilities. I sadly believe that this displays the fact that positive action relating to climate change and the environment is not really taken seriously by enough people inside the council. That needs to change.

Here is the extract from the minutes of the last meeting of the Select Committee. What do you think of the motion and the lack of action after it was passed?

Motion – River Pollution in Liverpool and Merseyside by Councillor Robert McAllister Bell and Richard Kemp CBE

The Committee received the following Motion submitted by Councillors Robert McAllister Bell and Richard Kemp CBE and referred from City Council meeting held on 20 July 2022. Councillor Liz Makinson introduced the Motion.

“Committee notes that there is great concern at data that shows United Utilities discharges raw sewage into Liverpool and the surrounding Merseyside rivers. The total for 2021 shows that United Utilities dumped raw sewage at least 4198 times and for 29,182 Hours into Merseyside rivers and or watercourse or rivers and watercourses that flow into Merseyside waters.

This highlights the true scale of the problem, as output in one geographic area affects another. The River Mersey is the main body of water that all these surrounding areas overspill flow into.

This means that on average United Utilities was dumping raw sewage into our rivers11 times on each day. The number of hours that this raw sewage flowed for is the equivalent of having a consistent flow into our waterways for over 3 years and 4 months in just 2021 alone.

In addition to having a negative impact on local wildlife and forcing a local watercress farm to cease trading, this also hugely affects the quality of life and the enjoyment of water-based activities for residents along the course of the rivers and at times causes contaminated water to be on roads and pavements, and flow into local properties.

Given the scale of these problems Committee therefore resolves to –

· Request the Cabinet Member to write to OFWAT requesting them to ensure that there is an acceleration in the United Utilities capital programme to lower risks of untreated sewage discharges into our rivers, and an assurance that local housing developers will be expected to fund water infrastructure to meet the needs of new housing.

· Request the Cabinet Member to work with other local authorities to call on the Government to provide guidance and funding to local planning authorities to challenge water companies to deliver the urgent upgrades required to water treatment capacity.

 · Request the Cabinet Member to convene a meeting with other local authorities within the Mersey catchment area local authorities who can evaluate the total problem to their businesses and residents and call upon United Utilities to provide guidance on the urgent upgrades required to water treatment capacity and monitoring infrastructure for its overflow sites that flow into Merseyside watercourses.

· Invite the Chair and Chief Executive of United Utilities to attend a meeting of the Climate Change Select Committee to answer questions on the appalling situation that they are allowing to happen.

Agreed that the Motion was supported unanimously.


About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Climate Change and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s