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Stockport Council has become one of the first local authority in the UK to launch an official inquiry into sewage dumping by water companies.
Across Stockport, water firm United Utilities discharged 13,372 hours of sewage discharges into local rivers, including 3,271 hours into the River Mersey across 977 separate events. The practice, carried out by water companies across the UK, has raised health fears for children and animals that may paddle or swim in polluted waterways.
The Stockport Sewage Inquiry is being chaired by Liberal Democrat councillor, Cllr Lisa Smart, which heard the first oral evidence from United Utilities at a meeting on 25th January.
Written evidence submitted to the inquiry by the Environment Agency has stated that water industry action will be necessary to improve water quality in the borough as a result of sewage dumping.
Once the inquiry is complete, Cllr Smart will publish a report with recommendations to both United Utilities and the Government. Chair of the Stockport Sewage Inquiry, Cllr Lisa Smart, said:
“The sewage crisis risks ruining our treasured rivers forever. People in Stockport are furious that water companies are being allowed to get away with it.
“United Utilities are rewarding their executives with eye-watering bonuses whilst local people fear walking their dogs along our local rivers and streams such as the Mersey, the Goyt and Poise Brook. We also have otters who live in the area and are being forced to swim in foul sewage.
“This is a national scandal which pollutes our rivers and puts animals’ lives at risk.”
United Utilities have responded explaining that they’ve always said, with river water quality, no single organisation can solve it on their own. They state there are a number of contributory factors that play their part in water quality around Stockport. United Utilities accept they obviously have their part to play and have said they will be doing so.
A United Utilities spokesperson, said:
“We were pleased to have the opportunity to discuss our operations with local councillors and we all agree a partnership approach is required to tackle river water quality in the region.
“By 2025, we will have invested £75m improving wastewater treatment across Stockport’s Mersey catchment. This includes new technology to improve the quality of the treated water going back into the Goyt and Tame. We know there is more to be done and that’s why we’ve launched our Better Rivers: Better Northwest programme. As part of this, we are investing an additional £230m to improve 184km of waterways and reduce the number of times storm overflows operate across the North West. We won’t stop there and from 2025, we will be going even further – with one of the biggest environmental improvement programmes ever delivered.”