WATERWAYS around Leigh and Atherton are reported to have been "heavily contaminated by regular sewage discharges".

Residents in the Bolton West and Leigh and Atherton constituencies are reported to have frequently raised these concerns to the Environment Agency, which has taken place despite increased monitoring of the sites.

In Leigh, there was 10,248 hours of effluent reported to be pumped into its watercourses, while Bolton West saw 6,100 hours of continuous sewerage, based on 2022 data from The Rivers Trust.

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Leigh Journal: Tens of thousands of sewage is reported to have been discharged into local waterwaysTens of thousands of sewage is reported to have been discharged into local waterways (Image: Paul Blinkhorn)
The state of waterways is a cross-boundary issue, with councillors, campaigners, and political candidates working to raise awareness about the volume of sewage and effluent flowing through both areas, as well as the detrimental impact that it is having on local wildlife.

The issue has gained more traction recently after it was revealed that millions of litres of raw sewage were illegally pumped into Lake Windermere for 10 hours in February.

Thousands of people took part in demonstrations at more than 30 beaches, rivers and lakes across England last week.

Leigh Journal: Labour candidates for Leigh and Atherton, Jo Platt, and Bolton West, Phil BracknellLabour candidates for Leigh and Atherton, Jo Platt, and Bolton West, Phil Bracknell (Image: Paul Blinkhorn)
In 2023, Westhoughton saw 1,850 continuous hours of sewerage discharges going directly into Hall Lee Brook, which then flows into Leigh via Westleigh Brook, behind Westleigh High School, and then onto Pennington Flash.

From one outlet alone, on Gloucester Street in Atherton, sewerage discharges into Collier Brook more than doubled in just one year, from 642 hours of continuous discharges in 2022, rising to 1,360 hours in 2023.

Local campaigner, Paul Blinkhorn who has previously coordinated cleanups in Collier Brook states, “It’s noticeable in the grey discoloured water, the stench and the scum on the surface of the water. It’s time we put our environment before profit”.

With a general election on the horizon, the Labour party says that it would force all companies to monitor every single water outlet under independent supervision, plus severe and automatic fines for illegal sewage discharges.

Leigh Journal: Jo Platt visited the sites with local councillors and campaignersJo Platt visited the sites with local councillors and campaigners (Image: Paul Blinkhorn)
Jo Platt, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Leigh and Atherton said: “I’ve had many reports from residents, concerned about the sewage going into our local environment.

"I’ve seen first-hand how dire things are and am committed to holding the water companies, and this government to account. Leigh and Atherton’s residents should be able to feel confident about getting out into our green spaces and engaging with our local waterways - whether that be getting involved in open water activities at Pennington Flash, letting their dogs play near open water or skimming stones with their children or grandchildren”.

Residents are being encouraged to report any pollution incidents, illegal activities or anything else of concern to The Environment Agency, which has hotlines open 24 hours a day: 0800 80 70 60.