Thursday, 19 February 2009

The waters of the River Nile

This week’s Midweek Visiter carried a story in which certain Southport politicians (from other parties) were alleging that the outflow from the River Nile on to Birkdale Beach was “disgusting”.
One of them even went so far as to claim that we have the “worst beach in the country”. The willingness of those who claim to have Southport’s best interests at heart to constantly knock our town never ceases to amaze!

In fact, Birkdale Councillor Simon Shaw was in contact with the Environment Agency on this issue as long as 4 weeks ago.
For those who are interested in the complete story we reproduce below the full e-mail response which Simon received:

Subject: 'River Nile' Outfall on Birkdale Beach
Councillor Shaw,
S informed me of your interest in the outfall on Birkdale beach, so I wanted to let you know the details.
We received a report by email that the outfall appeared 'contaminated' and was causing a foul odour. I went down the day after the report to have a look. At the time, both channels were pretty clear. I took a photo (please see attached) and some samples - one from the right and one from the left of the channel. There was very little flow from the right outfall as you look at it, so the sample I took was from the 'pond' in front of it. There were one or two bits of sewage litter on the banks of the channel. The odour was the seaweedy type odour that you tend to get on the beach - not especially pleasant, but not something I would attribute to pollution.
I've now had the results back and they show that both samples were ok. There is a slightly higher organic carbon figure from the right side, which could indicate a small pollution source, but the value is very low and not something I would worry about unless it got worse. The ammonia (which is usually a good indication of sewage pollution) was too low to be detected in both samples.
It is my understanding that there is a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) into the right channel and that a few years ago, United Utilities did a lot of work to improve it. A CSO is an overflow system on the sewer which allows water (sewage and rainwater) to escape when the levels in the sewer are very high. The small amount of sewage litter I found could indicate that there had been an overflow relatively recently. This mainly happens when there is a lot of rain and prevents contaminated water backing up into people's homes. These overflows are legal when they occur for reasons of high flow. The discharges do not generally have a significant environmental effect because the rainwater dilutes the sewage enough to stop it being much of a problem.