Plan to make River Mersey sewage-free by 2030

A file photograph of an Environment Agency worker treating a river after it was contaminated with untreated sewage Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Archive/PA Images

Plans have been unveiled to make the River Mersey free of dirty sewage by the end of the decade.

Steve Rotheram, the Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, wants to eliminate untreated waste in the waterway by 2030.

His promise follows the COP26 conference in Glasgow and comes after the government was criticised for failing to stop sewage being discharged into rivers across the country.

Anglers fish on the banks of the River Mersey Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Archive/PA Images

The area's original devolution deal, signed with central government in 2015, recognises that the Mersey has undergone "the greatest clean-up of any river in Europe over the last thirty years" but commits the city region to make the river free of discharges by 2040.

Mayor Rotheram is pledging to beat that goal by 10 years.

He said, "We have made enormous strides since the 1980s when Lord Heseltine rightly described the state of the River Mersey as ‘an affront to the standards a civilised society should demand of its environment.’

“The river today is an environmental success story but, as recent public anger over the discharge of untreated sewage into our rivers and seas shows, we cannot be complacent and must do all that we can to ensure we care for our great river.

To start the campaign, businesses and organisations that currently discharge waste into the River Mersey will be advised of the plans and informed of progress made to date.

The Metro Mayor is also promising that the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority will not invest in projects that do not act to prevent untreated sewage discharging into the rivers.

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Michael Heseltine on the Liverpool waterfront Credit: Andrew Parsons/PA Archive/PA Images

The plan is being backed by Lord Heseltine who, as Environment Minister in the 1980s, was a driving force behind establishing the Mersey Basin Campaign Partnership.

The group was instrumental in bringing together public and private sector organisations to carry out the original clean up.

The Conservative peer said the Mersey was "an open sewer" before it was cleaned up but he believes that the momentum to restore the river has now faltered.

The new campaign has also won the backing of the leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Councillor Louise Gittins says the health of the river is linked to the health of communities.

She is calling for modern solutions to manage sewage to protect water resources like the River Mersey.