DEPUTY Prime Minister Michael Heseltine officially opened North West Water's £38.9 million indoor treatment works in Rivington.

The works, finished last year, achieves the highest standards of water quality and meet strict European standards.

It supplies up to 17.6 million gallons of water daily to 500,000 people in the Wigan area and replaces an outdoor sand filter treatment system built in the 1850s to supply Liverpool.

North West Water chairman Sir Desmond Pitcher highlighted the achievements of the company since privatisation.

They included an improved water purification programme, better sewage management and eliminating environmental damage to our coastlines.

A total of £60 million per year from 1990 has been spent on leakage repairs and a further £15 million is to be spent this year.

Sir Desmond said the company had responded to the challenge of the drought in that all customers had received water and there had been no interruption to business.

"We will guarantee that after the year 2000 whatever happened this year will not happen again."

Mr Heseltine added: "Since privatisation the water industry has spent £15 billion, both in modernising and improving its facilities, and also in removing much of the causes and complaints about yesterday's dereliction."

Mr Heseltine is pictured unveiling a commemorative plaque at the new works with Sir Desmond, left, and Bolton West MP Tom Sackville. (C3204/11). Picture: PAUL HEYES "Over the decade that lies ahead this industry is planning to spend £24 billion increasing the standards and widening the provision. You see an example of it here today.

Mr Heseltine added that unlike the gas, electricity and telephone industries the water industry has not lowered prices.

"It hasn't lowered prices because the investment backlog was so great and the demands so considerable that the funding of extra cash has not been compatible with lowering prices but it has been compatible with meeting its demands and raising standards."

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.