Sewage pollution found in nearly all tests on Lancaster Canal

Lizzie Carr of Planet PatrolLizzie Carr of Planet Patrol
Lizzie Carr of Planet Patrol | Helen Morton
Sewage pollution has been found in nearly all tests carried out along the Lancaster Canal.

Samples of water were taken every 5km by paddle boarders volunteering for the Race For Rivers initiative organised by Planet Patrol during October.

The volunteers started in Preston and travelled all the way into Cumbria, passing through Garstang, Lancaster, Hest Bank, Bolton-le-Sands, and Carnforth.

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Five water quality parameters were tested along the route including coliform bacteria, phosphates and nitrates.


Findings showed that 88 per cent of tests along the Lancaster Canal failed to meet current phosphate standards.

There was also an 80 per cent coliform failure rate, a 16 per cent nitrite failure rate, and a pH failure rate of 33 per cent.

What does this mean?

Coliform: Their presence in water is an indication of sewage pollution

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pH: Different pollutants can increase or decrease the pH of a waterbody outside of the typical ranges outlined above. Fluctuations can be human-induced and are sometimes linked to pollution from mining, smelting and the burning of coal.

Nitrite and phosphates: Common forms of nutrient pollution associated with agriculture and wastewater treatment

What's the national picture?

In total, 420 water quality readings were taken over 642km of waterways.

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Results revealed that 83 per cent of waterways tested exceed threshold levels of coliform bacteria deemed safe for human bathing, three quarters of testing sites failed to meet phosphate standards, almost half of testing sites failed to meet nitrate standards and a quarter of pH readings were outside the 'tolerable' range.

Dr. Thomas Stanton from Loughborough University said: “Race for Rivers has highlighted the potential of community engagement in advancing our understanding of Britain’s blue and green spaces.

"While concerning, the results of the Race for Rivers testing are not surprising and emphasise the need for concerted monitoring efforts in our freshwaters.”

"Need for bolder and more ambitious action"

The findings come as the Government anounces its new nature package, to restore 600km of rivers nationwide.

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Founder of Planet Patrol, Lizzie criticised the package, saying no dates are in place to complete the restoration and there are no plans for the remaining 199,400kms of rivers also in a current state of emergency.

She said: "While community science is making significant strides, there remains a pressing need for bolder and more ambitious action from the government and water companies. The current practice of formal testing every six years, a stark departure from the annual testing required in 2015, is inadequate in the face of rapidly deteriorating water quality.

"The people have spoken through their actions; now, it is time for the government to respond with a more robust plan that includes frequent testing and transparent reporting to align with the severity of the situation.”

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