Dozens of water pollution incidents were recorded in Bolton between 2018 and 2022, new figures show.

Figures obtained by the RADAR news agency through a freedom of information request show 82 water pollution incidents were recorded by the Environment Agency in Bolton between 2018 and 2022 – including 11 last year.

These figures cover the first three levels of severity, with the area seeing three 'major' or 'significant' incidents over the same timeframe, the last coming in 2021.

In Bolton, 25 cases were assessed as coming from a water company in the past five years.

Water pollution can also come from other sources, such as agricultural run-off or industry and manufacturing.

A United Utilities spokesperson said: “We take our role in protecting the environment incredibly seriously and have consistently reduced the number of pollution incidents from our operations.

“We have plans to go even further with an ambitious £13.7 billion investment plan – the biggest for over 100 years – to improve services for customers, communities and the environment here in the North West.”

The Rivers Trust, a charity working to protect waterways in the UK, said; "People are rightly demanding that we restore our water bodies to a state of good health and resilience."

Last year the company announced a multi-million pound programme to improve Bolton's sewer network has been announced to help it withstand heavy rainfall to reduce 'storm spills' leading to river pollution.

A total of £57M will be spent in Bolton to build additional storage capacity at the borough's wastewater treatment works and also at seven different locations within the sewer network across the borough.

The works will reduce the need for storm spills and will also improve 21km of the River Croal.

Tessa Wardley, director of communications and advocacy at the charity said, "any pollution affecting rivers must be taken seriously", noting that not a single river in England is classed as being in good health.

Across England, the Environment Agency recorded nearly 36,000 category one to three water pollution incidents between 2018 and 2022.

The number of cases judged to be from water companies has risen over that time period – from 1,922 in 2018 to 2,213 last year.

A spokesperson for Water UK – a trade association – said: "Although this data reveals that two-thirds of all water pollution incidents had nothing to do with water companies, the industry takes its role in reducing pollution very seriously.

"Companies are now proposing to invest £96 billion, the highest on record, which will include upgrades to sewage treatment works and an overhaul of our sewer network," they added.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: "The number of pollution incidents caused by the water industry is unacceptably high. We expect water companies to significantly reduce them, and to report them to us quickly.

"We will not hesitate to take enforcement action where necessary and have secured over £150m in fines from the water industry since 2015."

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