A cleaner and greener borough with the Environment Agency

Date published: 04 September 2021

Hello from everyone at the Environment Agency and welcome to our latest round-up exclusively for Rochdale Online.

While many of us have been enjoying the sunny weather, our frontline staff have remained active on the ground keeping our communities safe. And it has been a busy couple of months for Team EA with issues such as flood risk and water quality taking centre stage throughout the season.

Read on to find out what we have been up to in Rochdale and the surrounding areas over the summer of 2021.

Keeping the main river network moving in Rochdale this summer

Despite the relatively dry weather keeping our rivers and watercourses fairly low, our field teams have been out and about working on their spring and summer maintenance programme and you are likely to have seen them grass cutting and maintaining weeds around our flood defence assets. This ensures that they remain in good condition and are ready to react even on the dry days.

It might seem strange us doing work to reduce flood risk in the summer, but the often best time to prepare for a flood is before it happens.

Day to day, the team have been checking debris screens in locations including Crossbrook Way, Water Lane, Butterworth Hall, Edward Street, Daniel Street and Foxcroft Street as well as removing any debris that could cause any blockage.

A lot of their work is all about keeping our structures working and making sure that rivers can flow freely in order to reduce flood risk. Many screens across Rochdale are checked at least every two weeks even during the summer.

Health and safety is also really important to our field team. Working with water can present obvious dangers like drowning and the team will wear life jackets and use tethers to keep them secure and safe when working on some debris screens (particularly during high flows). Another risk can be the uncertainty of what can be lurking within the water itself.  

You can trip over a bike that someone has chucked in, or come across a sharp bit of metal or used needles in the debris. You never know, and we see these more often than you might think. Just last month, the team were diverted from their normal maintenance schedule to attend a fly-tipping report of two bikes and sofa!

When it comes to rubbish, using proper disposal methods is key to preventing many of these issues but if you do spot anything in your local watercourse that shouldn’t be there, let us know on our 24 hour incident hotline 0800 80 70 60.


Environment Agency field team
Field teams have been out and about working
on their spring and summer maintenance programme


Taking the next step in flood risk management for Rochdale

No round-up would be complete without an update on the proposed flood scheme in Rochdale and Littleborough.

You may remember that construction of the scheme will be in two phases – Phase 1 (Littleborough) and Phase 2 (Rochdale – downstream of Smithy Bridge). We are phasing the construction works in this way because by beginning upstream in areas of Littleborough, the benefits will include a reduced flood risk for residents and businesses not only in Littleborough but also in Smallbridge and Rochdale at the earliest opportunity.

The Environment Agency and our contractor have been working as hard as possible to progress the works at Gale West quickly and efficiently in order to remove the traffic management on Todmorden Road by September. Their hard work has paid off and the traffic management measures were actually removed ahead of time as the enabling works and access ramp are now complete.

The site off Todmorden Road will now pass to Network Rail and their contractors to complete a new culvert underneath the railway, as part of the flood risk management measures.

Following this, works in the Riverstone Bridge area and other sites around Littleborough will commence towards the end of 2021 and into 2022, subject to business case approvals. We will be looking to engage on specific locations of Phase 1, including Todmorden Road and in the Riverstone Bridge area in the coming months.

Additionally, we are keen to speak with residents in Phase 2 (Smithy Bridge – Rochdale town centre) and will be looking to set up a drop-in event before the end of the calendar year. Watch this space for updates on that.

Did you know, we also post fortnightly updates to our Flood Hub page? The updates often contain site photos and impressive drone footage from the construction works.

If you are outside the flood area or would like to be kept up-to-date with the Rochdale and Littleborough Flood Risk Management Scheme, please contact rochdaleandlittleboroughFAS@environment-agency.gov.uk and the project team will happily add you to the mailing list.


Environment Agency Rochdale and Littleborough works
Rochdale and Littleborough works


Helping to protect our bathing waters

Thoughts may be turning to back to school preparations but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of visits to local seas and swimming spots.

Around half of the population in England use blue spaces at least once a month and knowing more about water quality and what affects it, means you can always be certain of getting the most from your trip.

And that’s where we step in. The bathing water season runs until the end of September with the Environment Agency carrying out regular testing of water quality at designated bathing sites. Throughout the season, around 7,000 samples will be collected by our specialist teams, tested in our labs and the results regularly updated on our water quality website, Swimfo.

These regular updates, along with our annual classification and details of what can actually affect water quality, could help you decide where to visit. In the North West, there are 29 designated bathing spots; a mixture of mainly coastal locations, including some real hidden gems to explore, as well as inland lakes.

We can also provide daily water quality predictions for some locations. Through our pollution risk forecasting service, we issue warnings when certain weather conditions or tides mean that pollution can be washed off the land into rivers and the sea. Even bathing waters that are usually rated 'Excellent' can sometimes experience a temporary dip in quality.

The Safer Seas Service app from Surfers Against Sewage also carries our information, so on the days where water quality is temporarily reduced Swimfo and Safer Seas Service can warn you for free, and in real time, to help you make the most informed decisions on when and where to visit.

Aside from letting you know how clean the water is, the data we collect every year plays an important role in driving investment and improvements in bathing water quality. The latest classifications from 2019 show that all 29 designated Bathing Waters in the North West met the revised water quality standards that were introduced in 2015.

That alone is a huge improvement from 1988 where only 18% of North West Bathing Waters met the minimum standards. This demonstrates the huge amount of work and investment which has gone into cleaning up our coast but as always, our ambition is to be better. We want our North West bathing waters to be even cleaner and for our beaches to always meet and even go beyond, the standards.

Like many aspects of our environment, individual actions count. There is a reason why we say take only memories and leave only footprints. Actions away from the beach and in the home can also have a damaging impact on our rivers and coasts. Pouring fats, oils and greases down the sink, and flushing wet wipes and other plastic products down the loo can cause blockages in our sewers that damage our environment. Simply putting them in the bin helps to protect water quality.

Never more so than over the past year have our local blue spaces and being out in nature been so important for our wellbeing. And with the growing popularity in open water swimming many people have, and continue to, enjoy wild swimming in rivers, lakes and coastal locations.

However, it’s important to know that the natural water environment is not risk-free. If you plan to take the plunge this summer, make sure you do it at a designated bathing water site.

Most importantly, stay safe. Wild swimming is a fantastic way to ward off “nature deficit disorder” but always be aware of the risks, use the water safely and seek the right advice before you dive in.


Environment Agency sampling
Around 7,000 samples will be collected by our specialist teams

Stay in touch

You can stay up-to-date with the latest news and information from the Environment Agency on Twitter and Instagram at @EnvAgencyNW. 

We look forward to sharing more of our stories and successes with you in November.

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