Sewage Litter On The Irwell

Tempers have been running high on our facebook page over the last couple of days about the increasing amount of sewage litter being washed up on the river banks.

Irwell Sewage Litter

This has been an ongoing problem on the Irwell now for many years – the legacy of a sewage system designed by the Victorians and ignored by successive generations until efforts were first made to clean up the river system in the mid 1970s.

Since then, there has been a long slow steady series of improvements. Started off by North West Water and the National Rivers Authority, now continued by United Utilities and the Environment Agency.

As water quality has improved, invertebrates and fish have returned to the river, followed by anglers and other naturalists. Our expectations are high, as we compare our River Irwell to other rivers in the North West such as the Dee,Dane, the Ribble and the Lune.

In the 1950s the Irwell was described in Parliament as the dirtiest river in Europe – so we have a rock bottom base on which to build the success story that the Irwell is becoming.

Huge improvements in the way our waste water and sewage is processed, and the virtual elimination of industrial discharges have transformed the Irwell.


The legacy of this old Victorian system is the large number of Combined Sewage Overflows (CSOs) which act as a safety valve for the system of old pipes, allowing them to overflow into the river during periods of peak capacity through the sewage system.

United Utilities (under the European Waste Water Treatment Directive) are required by law to screen all outflows into a river.

Back in the day – screening was non existent on the Irwell – but has slowly been adopted by UU on their water treatment works, and on the pipes which they adjudge to be the most frequent dischargers.

In 2010 under a freedom of information act request we found out from the EA that there were 108 CSOs on the Irwell between Rawtenstall and Manchester City Centre. Of these 108 CSOs only a 20 had any sort of screening, leaving 88 of them to pollute our river and decorate our river banks with sanitary products and condoms each time there is a significant rainfall event. No wonder the riverbanks are in such a disgusting state.

Over the last couple of months, we have endured extended periods of heavy rain, resulting in the river levels being high, and the local sewage system running at peak and above peak capacity.

Now as water levels are dropping, anglers are finding that once again the river banks, and river side trees are covered in unsightly sewage litter. Sewage litter that should be filtered out by the 6mm mesh mechanical screens of UU.

Look at the state of this tree, all the “leaves” on the lower branches are bits of wet wipes and tampons from a sewage overflow.

Irwell Sewage Tree

We know that there are not enough screens in place in the system – and that UU are adding more.

But are the existing screens being cleaned often enough, or being monitored for efficiency ?

I’ve asked the EA if they monitor this – the answer is no.

Once a screen is full it gets bypassed.

I wonder how many CSO screens (which only have an efficiency rate of 60% !) have been bypassed recently.

Here is a photo of an outfall where the screen isnt working properly (near Cemetry Rd Farnworth)

Shit pipe

If you see any grills that are coated like this or any part of the river bank that has significant amounts of sewage litter, please take a photo if possible and report it to us via

In July 2013 we asked members to report the worst grot spots that they knew of on the Irwell – 6 of these spots have been taken up on our behalf by the EA with United Utilities and we hope that they are going to be included in the next capital projects plan by UU.

People do take notice of us. So if you want a cleaner river, please get out on the river over the next 7 days and take photos of any evidence you might find and send them in


Restocking The Irwell

The EA have restocked another 12,000 roach, dace and chub into the Irwell this week.

Irwell Restocking 2013 010

The fish have gone in above and below Bury, and at Littleton Rd in Salford.

This is the third year on the trot that the EA have restocked the river – but it doesn’t seem to be making any difference to the quality of fishing.

In fact – if anything, fishing for silvers is slowly getting worse.

Why is this ?

Water quality issues, lack of habitat, periodic pollution incidents, mink, cormorants, goosanders, the fact that fish get washed downstream but cant make it back upstream over all the weirs ?

Probably a combination of all these factors.

We have pointed out to the EA that there are vast numbers of silver fish, which have been washed downstream into the lower Irwell / Manchester Ship Canal which are stuck there where we cant fish for them, because they can’t get back up over the weir at Adelphi. These fish, which are Irwell genetic stock would survive/breed much better in the Upper River than the fish from the EAs fish farm near Nottingham. Why cant they be netted or trapped and moved back upstream?

These fish the EA are stocking, have been bred and grown on in beautiful clean spring water in a Nottinghamshire fish farm  – and all of a sudden they’re released into the lovely sparking clean waters of the Irwell – no wonder they don’t seem to thrive.

So… what are the causes and solution to the disappearing Irwell roach and dace population?

Improving spawning habitat ?

Transporting fish eggs on spawning boards from the MSC / lower Irwell up to Bury?

Re-locating fish that can’t migrate upstream of their own accord ?

Everyone immediately points to cormorants as the main threat to our stocks of silver fish – but while they are undoubtedly a major factor – they aren’t the only issue. If they were the main issue, why are there so many roach in the Ship Canal where cormorants find it easier to feed, while roach are virtually non existent in the shallower streamier waters of the Irwell ?

What can we do ?

There’s something going very wrong somewhere.

Irwell Restocking 2013 001


Irwell silvers come a thousand at a time

Irwell Restocking 2013 002




Bradshaw Brook Pollution

Bradshaw Brook – the jewel in the Irwell crown has been polluted.

Local walkers found 100s of dead trout in the river last weekend and called the EA.

The worrying thing is that this stretch of river is directly beneath Jumbles Reservoir –  a drinking water rezzer managed by United Utilities !!!

(update 11.12.2013 – its the stretch between Wayoh and Jumbles thats been affected, NOT the section downstream of Jumbles).

Take a look at this article in the Manchester Evening News

Bradshaw Brook Pollution

Bradshaw Brook Pollution

UU say in the article that they have now stopped finding dead fish in Bradshaw Brook – thats because it looks as though they’ve already killed them all.

If there is anyone reading this from Bradshaw Anglers please keep us updated via the comments box below.


The Irwell Roach Project

Back in the late 90s and early 2000’s some massive bags of roach were taken from all over the lower Irwell system.

I myself had two bags of over 50lb (all roach), one from a peg in the Ordsall area, the other slightly downstream of Adelphi.


However, in recent years the ever increasing cormorant population has decimated the rivers roach population.

On the Hampshire Avon a group of committed anglers have got together to do something about it.

Avon Roach Project Video

Avon Roach Project Website

A few people connected to Salford Friendly have expressed an interest in replicating this project on the River Irwell.

If you think you might be interested in helping get a project like this off the ground, please leave a comment in the box below this post.

Some peoples view is that this type of project is futile as the cormorants will eat whatever fish we can grow. Others have the view that our roach fry are being swept downstream every time the river floods and cant get back upstream because of all the weirs. Or that periodic pollution incidents have wiped out whole breeding year classes of fish, and that the roach just havent been able to survive.

Again – if you have a view on why there are less roach in the river, and what can be done about it, please leave your comments below………




Old River Fishing Well !

I’ve been getting lots of reports from anglers recently telling me that the Old River in Irlam has been fishing well.
Heres one the the latest messages I’ve had from Jack – one of the venues regulars
Fishing the Old River regularly.Catching plenty of Roach and Perch,mostly small stuff although the Roach run to about 14oz.Pike are a nuisance!
taking fish off the hook.I’ve had two big ones on,didn’t manage to land them.Caught two nice Eels and also a couple of nice Skimmers although they don’t seem to show up very often.Saw three Kingfishers on one occasion made my day.Cheers Jack.”

If you go down to the Old River, please make sure that you leave your peg clean and tidy.

We will be holding a work party on the Old River sometime during the Xmas break – a few of the pegs need re-boarding and have become a little over grown.
There are plans for another Pike match – details to come soon

The Old River has been fishing really well for Silvers and Pike recently

Here is a picture of Michael Morton Snr with a beautifully coloured jackie


Michael Morton Snr with a nice Old River jack

EA Rivers Consultation


There is an Environment Agency Rivers Consultation taking place – which they are not publicising very well.

SFAS wonder if they don’t really want to hear, or if the’re not interested in our views?

They have issued a paper called North West Basin – Challenges And Choices

Please have a read of this document – North West River Basin District Challenges and choices

Then complete their questionairre here –

The EA seem to think that the major issues in our area our pollution, river connectivity, physical modification, abstraction etc – which to be honest is a load of guff.

Despite spending a small fortune on so called “improvements” on the Irwell – the fishing is far worse now that it was 10 years ago.

The EA consultation seems to ignore the issues we have with accessing the river. The banks of the Irwell are now virtually inaccessible for many months of the year due to the huge amount of dangerous Giant Hogweed which is now growing every year. Hogweed is a serious public health danger, but no one is doing anything about it. Lots of meetings, lots of talk but no action.

What about the flocks of cormorants devastating our fisheries each winter – what are the EA doing about it ? Nothing!

The EA employ large numbers of people in their offices in the NorthWest – but there are very few people on the ground working to improve our rivers. Why ? Surely a couple less office dwellers and more rivers officers doing work on the ground is a better use of rod licence resources.

Anglers pay £20m+ a year into EA coffers through our rod licences – surely our sport should be improving not getting worse!

Please bare these issues in mind when you are completing their questionnaire. If enough people start highlighting the REAL issues that we face as anglers – then maybe the EA might have to have a re-think of their agenda.



The Rivers Return


Back in winter 2011 members of the SFAS took part in a letter writing campaign to the minister in charge of DEFRA complaining about water quality in the Irwell, and at the same time telling them how much the clean up of the river meant to them.

It was good timing, because  The Angling Trust were at the same time taking DEFRA to court over their failure to adhere to the European Water Framework Directive.

Salford Friendly were delighted when it was announced that the River Irwell was one of only 10 UK rivers to become “Pilot Projects” for the implementation of these new environmental standards.

The EA had their hand forced and were required by central government to set up an Irwell working group to come up with a strategy to improve the Irwell.

We have, as a society attended these monthly meetings, and have made a big contribution towards its findings and policies. The group was originally called “The Irwell Pilot” but has now been renamed “The Rivers Return”.

Its members include United Utilities, The Highways Agency, Association Of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), Lancashire Wildlife Trust, The Red Rose Forest, Groundwork Trust, The Environment Agency, Forestry Commission,

If you would like to take a look at what the EA have come with have a read of this document.

The Irwell Catchment Pilot Final

Interesting reading.

We will update you as to whats going on in the rivers return group on a regular basis  via this website.

Next summer SFAS members will be asked to take part in a “Greening The River” work party – where we plant new stands of ranunculus in the Irwell – which will provide better spawning habitat for coarse fish, better fry refuge and generally improve the ecology of the river as a whole. We hope you put your name down for this project when we announce full details next spring.



Here is the “official” blurb


The Rivers Return is an exciting and innovative project that aims to regenerate the water environment in the Irwell river catchment with the integrated benefit of supporting economic growth and social enterprise. The Government has asked organisations to work in partnership to identify local actions to improve water quality within their Catchments and initiated a Catchment Approach Pilot in 2011.

Ten Pilots were initially established with a further 15 in January 2012. The 25 pilot groups were asked to report back to Defra with their findings and progress in December 2012.

The Rivers Return Project (Irwell Catchment Pilot) is one of ten pilots hosted by the Environment Agency. The catchment incorporates the Rivers Irwell, Croal, Roch, Medlock and Irk which drain the western Pennines and flow through the Pennine Fringe and Greater Manchester conurbation before joining the Manchester Ship Canal at Salford Quays. Evidence suggests that diffuse urban pollution (e.g. dirty water coming from roads, badly connected sewers and old landfills) and physical modifications to rivers (e.g. weirs, culverts and artificial river banks) may be key reasons for many of the rivers and lakes in the Irwell Catchment not achieving legally required standards of water quality.

The Irwell Catchment Pilot is steered by a multi-sector group representing community groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), local authorities, the Environment Agency (a non-departmental public body), business, and academia

The primary aim of the Rivers Return is to protect and improve water environments which it proposes to achieve by testing new approaches to stakeholder engagement; information sharing; co-ordination of action at a Catchment and local level; and stimulating engagement from across society and business.

This summary report presents the key objectives of the Rivers Return Catchment Plan.

Restocking Winter 2013

Yesterday morning say the introduction of 200 8 inch mirror carp to one of our waters. These fish have been purchased using the money generated from our fishing matches and a size-able donation a very generous member who has been unable to attend our matches. We will publicise where these fish have been stocked in the new year, once they have had time to acclimatise.

mushrooms 005

The new fish have come from Hampton Springs Fishery in Shropshire, and are expected to grow to 2lb by the end of summer 2014 and 5lb by the end of summer 2015.
mushrooms 010

We also have a large order of Rudd to be delivered at the end of March 2014 for the Old River Irwell in Irlam to boost numbers of silver fish (and to make fishing easier for junior anglers)

Hopefully, we will be able to bring you pictures of another 10,000 roach, chub and dace being stocked into the River Irwell between now and Christmas as the EA fish farm releases another quota of fish for the Irwell system.

Since the inception of the Salford Friendly Restocking Fund in January 2010, we have now stocked
10,000+ roach into Drinkwater Park
2,000 Crucian Carp into Drinkwater Park
3,500 Bream into the Old River Irwell in Irlam
500 tench into the Old River Irwell in Irlam
And played a role in the restocking of
500 Barbel into the River Irwell
20,000 roach, chub and dace into the River Irwell

Many thanks to all our members who have supported our restocking fund.

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