River Darwen near Preston the second most sewage spilled river in England

Posted on - 2nd April, 2024 - 4:01pm | Author - | Posted in - Ashton-on-Ribble, Bamber Bridge, Fulwood, Lostock Hall, Politics, Preston News, South Ribble News, Wildlife and Conservation, Wyre News
River Darwen looking towards Preston Pic: Tony Worrall

A section of river near Preston was one of the most polluted in England last year.


New figures on sewage spills released by the Environment Agency and analysed by The Guardian showed the River Darwen experienced 83 spills per mile of river.

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Running into Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall and joining the River Ribble near London Road the river experienced 3,145 spills in 2023, up from 2,142 in 2022. The river and overflows are managed by United Utilities.

Read more: Broadgate flood defences scheme sees new Ribble viewing platform taking shape

It was the second most spilled into river behind the Croal Irwell – on the Lancashire/Greater Manchester border.


Other rivers in and around Preston also experienced rising sewage spills during 2023.

A section of the River Ribble, known as ‘Big Ribble’ running from Hurst Green down to Cuerdale Lane, saw 735 spills up from 611.

Savick Brook, which flows from Longridge through Fulwood and Ashton-on-Ribble, and out into the Fylde coast, experienced 730 spills – up from 391 in 2022.

The Ribble Estuary, which runs through the Docks and along Penwortham, had 543 spills listed, up from 296 the previous year.

The River Brock, and its tribuataries, to the north of Fulwood and up towards Garstang saw 261 sewage spills up from 146.

Water UK, the trade association for water companies, told The Guardian: “These results are unacceptable and demonstrate exactly why we urgently need regulatory approval to upgrade our system so it can better cope with the weather.

“We have a plan to sort this out by tripling investment which will cut spills by 40% by 2030 – more than double the government’s target.”

Read more: New River Ribble bridge between Preston Docks and Penwortham still ‘distant idea’

What United Utilities had to say

Mark Garth, wastewater services director at United Utilities, told Blog Preston: “We have seen one of the wettest years on record in the North West and that has contributed to an increased number of storm overflow operations compared to the previous year. Since 2015, we have invested £45m upgrading wastewater systems around Windermere resulting in 50% reduction in the levels of phosphorus entering the lake from our systems.

“We are going further and have already made an early start on a further £41m programme of investment to reduce storm overflow operation at four sites in Windermere by 50% by 2030.

“Whilst the current system is designed to activate during rainfall I understand and share people’s concerns and the need for change and that’s why we are proposing a £3 billion record investment programme to tackle storm overflows in the North West between 2025 and 2030. We are determined to deliver the step change that we all want to see.”

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