Councillors have branded a Lytham brook an '˜open sewer' after figures revealed hundreds of waste discharges in a six-week period when United Utilites' storage tanks were full.
Couns Roger Lloyd and Mark Bamforth say Liggard Brook – which runs from St Annes through Lytham past the award-winning Park View playing fields and through housing areas – has become a ‘stagnant waterway’.
However, water bosses say most of the discharges were rainwater following storms.
Coun Lloyd said: “An open sewer runs through the centre of Lytham, it’s called the Liggard brook. The brook is being used by United Utilities as a sewage drain off when the sewage capacity is full .
“United Utilities has systematically used this main surface water drain as an overflow for untreated sewage. In the six weeks from December to January 2016 there were some 300 discharges of untreated sewage into the brook, some of these individual discharges lasted several hours .
“It is apparent that the present sewage system cannot cope.
“And when they say it’s rainwater, it’s still mixed in with sewage.”
The discharges into the brook happened when storage tanks, which take sewage and rain water, became full.
Coun Bamforth said: “During the heavy rains last winter the system could not cope, and subsequently thousands of gallons of untreated sewage found its away into the brook.
“We are very concerned about personal health and the effects this has had on the environment.
“The Environment Agency stopped testing for faecal bacteria six years ago in the Liggard ,so at present there are no agencies involved with testing of bacteria on this very important stretch of drainage water.
“The sewage system in its present form cannot cope .We believe the use of the Liggard brook as a sewage overflow is unacceptable ,also we would like to see regular testing for bacteria related to sewage and real time testing for spillages on the Liggard and Main Drain.”
The duo have called on United Utilities to tackle the problem ane restart bacteria testing in the water.
Coun Lloyd said: “The Liggard brook historically was a free flowing stream ,it is now a stagnant waterway and regular dredging would help the restore the flow .The Thousands of new houses planned for Lytham, St Annes and surrounding areas is only going to make the situation a great deal worse.”
Mark Menzies MP said: “Today was the first time I had heard about any complaints of this nature so I immediately contacted United Utilities to seek clarification.
“I was told that these storage tanks are predominantly for highways drainage and were discharged into the brook on a limited number of occasions to prevent widespread flooding in Lytham at a time when we were facing extremely heavy rainfall.
“This was reported to the Environment Agency at the outset, which monitored throughout to ensure United Utilities was complying with the robust regulations which are a requirement of its licence.
“I am assured that this discharge was predominantly water and that there was absolutely no risk to the environment.
“However, should anyone have any concerns they should let me know and I will take them up with the company and the regulator on their behalf.”
Fylde Council’s Draft Infrastructure Delivery Plan of September 2015 states there are issues with both Liggard Brook and Main Drain, the two watercourses which serve South Fylde.
The plan, which acts as a guide for developers in the area, states: “There are particular surface water issues east of Lytham around Liggard Brook and Main Drain, and such issues need further investigation by [United Utilities].
“In south Fylde there are few watercourses and the flat topography of the landscape makes it difficult for water in the watercourses to flow. This can result in flooding after heavy rainfall. This is a particular issue to the east of Lytham where Liggard Brook and Main Drain discharge into the Ribble Estuary.”
A spokesman for United Utilities said: “We have a licence from the Environment Agency to discharge water into Liggard Brook when storm water levels exceed what our treatment processes can cope with, or we can store temporarily.
“Storms Desmond and Eva put considerable pressure on our network in December and January.
“The discharges into Liggard Brook were mostly rainwater which presents no risk to the environment whatsoever.”
And a spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said: “We are aware of the local concerns about sewage discharges to Liggard Brook.
“We have regular discussions with United Utilities about how their assets are working and we are not aware of any significant impacts to Liggard Brook.
“Additionally, we are working in partnership with Ribble Rivers Trust and United Utilities to reduce polluting inputs from farms and septic tanks in the south Fylde area, including Liggard Brook.
“We will monitor the situation and ask members of the public to report environmental incidents to us on 0800 80 70 60.”