NEW figures have laid bare how much raw sewage was dumped in the Morecambe Bay catchment, the Walney Channel and the Duddon Estuary last year because of storm overflows. 

A single pumping station, Cark in Cartmel, spilled sewage for 6471.57 hours, or 269.64 days, in 2023, according to the latest Environment Data Monitoring figures released annually by the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs. 

Outlets discharging directly into the Walney Channel spilled for 2,753.21 hours (115 days), and in the Duddon Estuary for 2,141.57 hours (89.23 days) last year. 

Other notable outlets from the monitoring figures are as follows: 

  • Millom Wastewater Treatment Works had 96 spills in 2023, with 1373.62 hours (57.20 days) worth of raw discharge going into the Duddon Estuary. 
  • The Greenodd Pumping Station, with an outlet going into the River Leven shortly before it joins Morecambe Bay, had 88 spills resulting in 1095.59 hours (45.65 days) worth of sewage flowing out into the sea. 
  • The storm tank at Newbiggin Wastewater Treatment Works spilled 223 times for 3927.24 hours (163.63 days)
  • Further up the coast Baycliffe Pumping Station spilled for 1712.6 hours (71.35 days)
  • The storm tank at Barrow-in-Furness Wastewater Treatment Works spilled for 1114.95 hours (46.45 days). 

Water companies are permitted to spill in times of exceptional rainfall to prevent flooding the system, which is called storm overflows. On the data, many of the sites, such as Baycliffe Pumping Station, listed hydraulic capacity rather than maintenance as an issue. 

United Utilities, the water company in charge of sewage assets in the north-west, said that 2023 was one of the wettest years on record, which has contributed to an increased number of storm overflow operations compared to the previous year. 

The company is investing millions of pounds into its infrastructure to meet the new requirements of the Environment Act 2021. 

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Mark Garth, a local boss at the company, said: "Since 2015, we have invested £45m upgrading wastewater systems around Windermere resulting in 50% reduction in the levels of phosphorus entering the lake from our systems.

“We are going further and have already made an early start on a further £41m programme of investment to reduce storm overflow operation at four sites in Windermere by 50% by 2030.

“Whilst the current system is designed to activate during rainfall I understand and share people’s concerns and the need for change and that’s why we are proposing a £3 billion record investment programme to tackle storm overflows in the north-west between 2025 and 2030. We are determined to deliver the step change that we all want to see.”