New £200m plant helping to keep the Mersey clean

A lot has changed in Liverpool over the past 25 years. One of the most remarkable changes has been the clean-up of the River Mersey.

On October, 4, 1991 Liverpool Wastewater Treatment Works was opened by H.R.H The Princess Royal, and nearly 25 years later Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne returned to open the new £200m state-of-the-art extension to the existing treatment works.

The Princess Royal unveils a plaque during a visit to Liverpool Wastewater Treatment Works, Liverpool. Pic credit: Anna Gowthorpe/Press Association
Lorne Large, United Utilities Principal Project Manager, said: “The extension to Liverpool treatment works means we will be able to keep the River Mersey clean well into the next century.”

The latest development marks a far cry from when the River Mersey had reached its low point in the mid-1980s, when it was described by the then Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Heseltine “… as an affront to the standards a civilised society should demand of its environment.”

It was famous for being known as the dirtiest river in Europe, awash with a deadly cocktail of raw sewage and toxic chemicals.

Over the past 25 years United Utilities and its predecessor North West Water has spent billions of pounds overhauling the sewer network to help play its part in the clean-up.

The opening of Liverpool wastewater treatment works in 1991 had a huge impact on the river. Prior to being built, the cities raw and partially treated sewage was being discharged directly into the Mersey and its tributaries.

The improvement in treating wastewater had an instant impact, helping the river Mersey to flourish once again, which was key to the economic regeneration of the city.

Ian Fullalove, United Utilities special projects manager said: “The opening of the £200m extension to the existing treatment works, will help continue the environmental improvements we have already been making.

The success of the clean-up is evident. Beautiful creatures such as dolphins frolicking in Liverpool Bay are becoming a common sighting and a humpback whale was recently spotted flapping its distinctive pectoral fin.

Matthew Clough founder of Liverpool Bay Marine Life Trust said: “Other species enjoying the cleaner water, include octopus, salmon, grey seals and large cod, which are being badly hit worldwide.
We’re also seeing dolphin and porpoise recovery which is absolutely fantastic and even more evidence the clean-up is working.”

Economically the city has also benefitted from the improved quality of water in the river.  Which has encouraged the regeneration of land beside the river and its tributaries.