'This is a blight on our great city of Manchester - it's totally wrong and should not be allowed'

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Anglers have been left outraged after sewage was reportedly dumped into the River Irwell on the first day of fishing season.

Mike Duddy, chair of Salford Friendly Anglers Society - which claims to be the world’s oldest fishing club at 207 years old videoed the aftermath of a reported sewage release near Trinity Way in the city centre. Starting the day hoping to catch some trout, roach, dace, or chub, 58-year-old Mike says the incident ruined the anglers’ day.

“It was the opening day of the fishing season yesterday (June 16),” he told the LDRS. “A lot of anglers were on the river from about 5am. 

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“It started to rain at 10am for about four or five minutes then all of a sudden that s*** came out the pipe. Everyone just packed up and went home. It stinks, you can’t enjoy the river like that.”

Mike’s video was posted on social media by Prof Jamie Woodward, a researcher at the University of Manchester whose work has focused on pollution in the area’s rivers. He added: “A sunny day in Manchester and sewage is being dumped in the River Irwell - the most sewage-infested river in England. A blight on our great city.”

Prof Woodward’s previous research has suggested that ‘the build-up of microplastics [in Manchester’s rivers] was directly linked to untreated sewage discharges outside periods of exceptional rainfall’. In the UK, water companies are permitted to release untreated sewage into rivers to avoid flooding properties during heavy rainfall — known as spills.

But the BBC recently reported that millions of spills could have taken place without the required rainfall, so ‘without rainwater to dilute the waste, this can lead to higher concentrations of sewage entering waterways — and is therefore illegal’.

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Its investigation also included a map of pipes which flow into rivers, with one in the location described by Mike found to have spilled 104 times in 2023, for the equivalent of 29 days. The LDRS has been unable to confirm if the pipe in the video is the one in the BBC data.

The stretch of the River Irwell Mike Duddy was fishing in. The stretch of the River Irwell Mike Duddy was fishing in.
The stretch of the River Irwell Mike Duddy was fishing in. | lDRS

Now, Mike has called on the authorities to invest in new sewers. He added: “We are building a first-class city. But it’s got third class infrastructure. It’s totally wrong they should be allowed to tip their sewage into the river. If it rains for three minutes, it tells you they need to build a sewage network fit for the city.”

In the aftermath of the video being posted, a spokesperson for United Utilities — the water company in charge of sewage in the north west — said: “Our teams are currently investigating.”

Asked about Mike’s comments on the quality of infrastructure in the region, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said the organisation ‘does not build sewage infrastructure or directly manage water’, as ‘that is the responsibility of others’. However, the GMCA is a co-author of the Integrated Water Management plan, which ‘is a collaborative approach to the way we plan for and manage all elements of the water cycle in Greater Manchester’, along with United Utilities and the Environment Agency.

The Environment Agency has been contacted for comment.

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