Warning not to swim at two Wirral beaches

People have been warned not to swim at three Merseyside beaches following sewage discharges in the area.

According to the Surfers Against Sewage website, there were sewage discharge alerts for the beaches at Meols and Moreton as well as Southport on 24 July. This followed heavy rains over the weekend after flood warnings were issued in parts of Merseyside.

The alert suggests there has been a sewage discharge in the area in the last 48 hours. According to the Safer Seas and Rivers Service app, sewage began being discharged at 2.20am and 2.25am on 24 July at Meols and Moreton respectively.

A spokesperson for United Utilities confirmed there had been sewage discharges both on the Wirral and near Southport but said it was a safety measure to prevent sewage backing up in people’s houses.

On 24 July, swimmers turned up at Birkenhead Town Hall angry over the sewage discharges pointing to reports that New Brighton beach is one of the worst polluted beaches from sewage in the UK.

Chris Shaw and Amanda Parker from the Happy Chilly Dippers in New Brighton said they don’t “see how it is either healthy or fair to be swimming amongst raw sewage” and accused water companies of using heavy rainfall as “an opportunity to flush out raw sewage into the estuary.” Happy Chilly Dippers has over 5,700 members.

Mr Shaw called on Wirral Council to join in the campaign and lobby the government to “make sure that our shores aren’t just a dumping ground for raw sewage.”

He added, “In the 21st century the last thing that swimmers should be doing is swimming amongst raw sewage around the Wirral.”

Cllr Liz Grey, chair of the local authority’s environment and transport committee, criticised the government, adding, “They’ve not looked after this at all, it’s under their watch and United Utilities who are responsible for sewage, not the council.”

She agreed to support lobbying the government calling it “absolutely disgusting.”

Following the recent sewage discharges, a United Utilities spokesperson said, “The North West experienced exceptionally heavy rain over the weekend and as a result some storm overflows operated as they are designed, and permitted, to.

“Storm overflows operate when there has been very heavy rain and combined sewers are inundated with rainwater. At these times, overflows act as a safety valve that stops sewers backing up and flooding homes and businesses.

“We are committed to delivering a step change in performance to reduce the operation of storm overflows. We have already reduced spill frequency by 40% since 2020 but we know there is more to do and we are planning a £3bn programme of work across the North West to tackle the issue.

“We have been granted approval to fast track £1.5bn of environmental improvements over the next two years.”

Main image: Sewage protestors outside Birkenhead Town Hall. Credit: John O’Hara

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Sewage protestors outside Birkenhead town hall. Credit: Edward Barnes
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