Firm apologises after soapy water ‘incorrectly diverted’ into river

A Wirral firm has apologised after soapy water was “incorrectly diverted” into an already polluted river.

On 23 April, works to help deliver a new project at the factory in Port Sunlight resulted in a foam discharge being pumped into Dibbinsdale Brook in Bromborough.

This was immediately reported to the Environment Agency by Unilever and the firm said they took immediate action to address the issue.

A Unilever spokesperson said, “There was a recent incident on our Port Sunlight site during some planned and authorised works, where a small volume of surface water from our factory, which should have been directed to our on-site water interceptor, was incorrectly diverted for a limited time towards the Dibbinsdale Brook. This created a low level of foam, commonly found in our finished products, which quickly dispersed.

“Minimising the impact of our operations on the local environment is a priority for Unilever and we took immediate action to stop this from continuing, as well as instigating a thorough investigation to determine the cause and ensure that it does not happen again. We are sorry for any concern this may have caused local residents.”

It’s understood pH tests showed levels were within expected limits for the brook and the drain was later isolated and sealed to prevent any discharge happening again. Acording to government data collected in 2022, pH levels in the river were already high.

The data shows Dibbinsdale, which discharges into the Mersey, has a poor ecological status with low levels of fish and invertebrates.

Levels of phosphatase which can come from manure, fertiliser, or sewage is poor, as is dissolved oxygen levels which helps animals like fish ‘breathe’.

Temperatures were also high as well as levels of triclosan, an antimicrobial agent that is included in a variety of projects such as soaps, hand sanitisers, toothpaste, and mouthwash. A survey from 2019 also found the river failed when it comes to levels of toxic mercury.


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