Improving our bathing waters

In the past, the quality of bathing waters in our region has been poor. In 1988, just six of the then 29 waters monitored in the region met bathing water guidelines.

Over the last 25 years we have spent £1 billion improving the region’s bathing waters. It has involved engineering on a massive scale, bringing sewage treatment for the first time to Blackpool and Fleetwood, upgrading treatment processes at towns across the region and storing vast volumes of storm water with schemes like the Preston tunnel project along the River Ribble. By 2014, all of the bathing waters in the lovely North West were among the most improved in the country and met the necessary standards.

Here is a selection of some of the work we've recently completed and other activities which are still ongoing across the region.

Our works

Allonby

Allonby

Our £4.5 million project at Allonby wastewater treatment works in Cumbria was completed in April 2016. We increased the capacity of the plant by building additional treatment units which now reduces the number of storm spills in severe weather.

Hagg Lane

Hagg Lane, Carnforth

In April 2017 we completed a £7 million project which will help improve bathing waters at Morecambe. The 15-month scheme has involved building a new underground storm tank to reduce sewer spills into the River Keer, which eventually feeds into Morecambe Bay.

Chorley

Chorley

Our two-year £14 million project to upgrade Chorley Wastewater Treatment Works was completed in April 2017. By increasing the capacity of the works and upgrading the process, the quality of treated wastewater we now release to the River Yarrow is improved. This in turn carries cleaner water into the River Douglas, the River Ribble and out to the Fylde Coast, bringing benefits for shellfish beds as well as bathing waters.

Anchorsholme

Anchorsholme Park

A new 12,000 cubic metre storage tank was completed in April 2016 at Anchorsholme Park in North Blackpool which is helping to reduce storm spills on the Fylde Coast. We're also increasing the length of the outfall from Anchorsholme pumping station, which will take storm flows far enough out to sea to prevent it affecting bathing water quality and shellfish waters. The new outfall pipe has been transported by ship from Norway to the coast of Ireland and it will be installed at Anchorsholme.

Blackpool South Strategy

Blackpool South Strategy

In 2015 we completed the first stage of the Blackpool South Strategy with the replacement and improvement of the Harrowside outfall pipe off the Blackpool coastline (in front of Blackpool Pleasure Beach). This new, longer pipe will be able to deal safely with larger flows of storm water one kilometre out to sea.

Morecambe

Morecambe

A £70 million scheme to further improve bathing waters at Morecambe Bay. The aim is to build two large storm water storage tanks and new pumps at Schola Green Pumping Station, upgrade Morecambe Wastewater Treatment Works at Middleton and lay a new 7km sewer pipe between the two sites.

Coastal Modelling Project

We have just completed a £4.4 million study which will help us understand in the greatest detail ever how our wastewater network can affect bathing water quality. We have spent millions of pounds over the past 30 years reducing the impact of our sewers on bathing water quality, tackling the big issues first. We've taken thousands of samples along the entire North West coastline. These samples are being used by computer modelling experts to identify where our sewers could be improved to prevent pollution during heavy rain.

River Ribble and Wyre Tidal project

River Ribble and Wyre Tidal project

We have contributed £1.5 million to kick-start an initiative working with the Ribble and Wyre Rivers Trust, Natural England and the National Farmers' Union. This will provide better understanding and focus on the other sources of pollution which also have an impact on bathing water quality across the Fylde peninsula area. In particular, the project aims to reduce pollution coming down the Ribble and Wyre estuaries from 30 priority farm properties.

Having best bathing waters is no small task.

In the past, the quality of bathing waters in our region has been poor. In 1988, just six of the then 29 waters monitored in the region met bathing water guidelines.

However, by 2014, all of the bathing waters in the lovely North West were among the most improved in the country and met the necessary standards. Achieving this has been no small task.

  • Years ago, the region’s waterways were used for disposal of raw sewage. It's not a nice thought but it was quite common at the time for up to 570 million litres a day (or 34 million toilet flushes) to be discharged off the region’s coast.

    The North West struggled with so many densely populated areas, including large clusters of homes and businesses around the coast. For example, if you don't mind heights and stand at the top of Blackpool Tower, you can see the size of the area which drained to the sea.

  • Take a look at the Environment Agency’s website to see their investigations results - they show that around 30 per cent of the problem in the North West is linked to sewerage from our wastewater network.

    There's no getting away from the fact that it's not the Mediterranean round here (well, not most of the time). Our region’s natural make-up means it is prone to rainfall, with several areas of the North West regularly named among the wettest areas of the UK by the Met Office.

    The upshot is that the sewage system simply cannot cope with such levels of water in a short space of time and this leads to diluted storm sewage entering the region’s rivers and the Irish Sea, via sewer overflows. These overflows, which are permitted and monitored by the Environment Agency, occur during periods of heavy rain when the sewerage systems cannot handle increased water levels, and are necessary to avoid flooding.

    But we know that sewer overflows can contribute to water quality, which is why we have invested £1 billion on bathing water improvements, fine-tuning the wastewater network to make sure treated water returned to the water cycle is of a better quality.

  • Farmers and the general public also have a part to play - water that runs off fields containing animal droppings, and dog fouling on beaches, affect water quality too. Simply picking up your dog's mess on a beach walk can help. 

    See what other part you can play in helping to keep the region's water clean.