MPs called on the water supplier for the North West to 'Clean Up Its Act' after data revealed the amount of sewage channelled into the waterways last year.

It came after data showed Bolton North East and Bolton South East each saw more than 1,200 discharges in 2022 – more than anywhere else in Greater Manchester.*

On Wednesday, Labour MPs Andrew Western, Jeff Smith, Jim McMahon and Mike Kane met on a bridge over the River Mersey and called on water supplier United Utilities to take action on the issue.

They suggested the Conservative Government and the Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) were responsible too.

Mr McMahon, an Oldham MP who is the shadow environment secretary, said: "There is too much in terms of responding to the demand for dividends and not enough in terms of community benefit and environmental benefit. We want to see it flipped so the focus is on medium-term benefit and long-term benefit. 

"Over the last few decades the water companies took out £72 billion in dividends which could have been used for investment which would have dealt with this issue."

Bolton North East and Bolton South East each saw more than 1,200 discharges in 2022, putting them first and second in Greater Manchester. Bolton West saw more than 800 discharges, putting it 14th.

Across all of these constituencies the events lasted for a total of 14,000 hours.

If the sewerage system is at risk of being overwhelmed, for example during heavy downpours water companies sometimes use storm overflows to release extra rainwater and wastewater into rivers or seas to prevent flooding.

Jamie Woodward, a professor of geography at the University of Manchester, said: "The tragedy is we've gone backwards since 2010. There is a failure of regulation.

"What does deregulation mean? Deregulation means rivers are full of s***."

The answer, according to the Labour Party, is the introduction of compulsory monitoring of all discharges and automatic fines for these discharges.

But a spokesperson for United Utilities set out a plan to invest billions into its infrastructure, with the number of spills down 40 per cent since 2020.

In a statement, a spokesperson said: "We are committed to delivering a step change in performance. We set out to reduce the number of spills from storm overflows by at least one third compared to the 2020 baseline, and our performance in 2022 means we have already met this target. 

"We know there is much more to be done. With the largest combined sewer network in the country and 28 per cent more rainfall in our region than the UK average, we have ambitious plans to deliver improvements through one of the biggest environmental programmes in the country."

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "This government is the first to take such comprehensive action on storm overflows – and our new Plan for Water sets out the increased investment, tougher enforcement and tighter regulation to tackle this issue.

"We introduced compulsory monitoring, set the strictest targets ever on water companies to reduce discharges and required them to deliver the largest infrastructure programme in their history. 

"The environment secretary demanded a plan for every storm overflow from every company, prioritising those near bathing waters. 

"We are also consulting to give regulators more powers to impose much larger penalties for polluters without needing to go to court."

*All data is collected by the Environment Agency and collated by Top of the Poops.

This article was written by Jack Tooth. To contact him, email or follow @JTRTooth on Twitter.