Map shows where Wirral sewage is being discharged in real time

A new map shows where in Wirral sewage is being discharged right now after warnings of heavy rain.

On 30 April, water company United Utilities published a new map showing where sewage has been discharged from points across the borough in real time.

Following rainfall across north west England on 22 May, it shows sewage still being discharged or in the last 24 hours from 11 points across Wirral and 35 across the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

United Utilities has previously said sewage discharges are necessary to prevent sewage backing up into people’s homes during periods of heavy rainfall. However, the issue has come under criticism from local politicians.

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has pledged to make the River Mersey discharge free by 2030 while swimmers in New Brighton were hoping to bid for bathing water status there to help protect swimmers there. That bid was being supported by Wirral Council but the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has now paused new bathing water applications while a review takes place.

On 22 May, sewage discharged for more than four hours off the coast near Meols, over an hour at two points near the Beechwood and Noctorum estates as well as in Birkenhead. As of 4.51pm, it was still discharging from nine points into the Mersey estuary.

Roughly 85% of sewers in Merseyside are combined meaning rainwater mixed in with sewage in the system. When asked about discharges, United Utilities representatives said, “The system has in effect done what it is designed to do. When you get rainfall that is above a certain intensity, these relief points act as a relief from the network to protect people from flooding, that’s homes and businesses.”

Mark Garth, Wastewater Services Director at United Utilities, said, “We have published the map now, ahead of the summer season, because we have listened to people in our local communities and we want to give them an insight into how our wastewater network is operating at any given time.”

The launch of the new map has not been without issue. Campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) said they had not been given access to sewage pollution data since 18 April by United Utilities. They argued it was “a convenient technical issue, only weeks after the launch of their own map has left us and thousands of our app users in the North West in the dark about how sewage is impacting their beaches.”

In response, a United Utilities spokesperson said, “There was a technical issue which meant that alerts were temporarily not being sent to SAS. As soon as SAS raised this with us we investigated and the problem has been fixed.”

A link to the map can be found here

Image: A screen capture of the discharge map captured at 11:19am on 23 May 2024. Blue markers represent sites that were actively discharging at 11:19am on 23 May 2024. Purple markers represent discharges that took place in the 24 hour period leading up to the same time and date.

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