Howley Moly – What a Mess

Partial draining of the River Mersey between Woolston and Howley Weirs in Warrington, for repair-works due to vandalism, has exposed an alarming fly-tipping problem in the Howley area. This vandalism has also caused an increased risk of bank-collapse and to the river’s ecology.

The tip of the iceberg – a complete fast-food table and chairs, car door, and shopping trolley – immediately upstream of Howley Weir. Three identical benches lie in the mud just upstream of this same location. Image credit: Paul Connor.

This stretch of the Mersey was partially drained this week by Peel Ports to allow repair work to take place on Howley Weir, after vandals badly damaged the roof of the weir building (see image below) causing chunks of coping to block tipping-gates 1 and 2.

The damage to the Howley Weir gate-house caused by vandals. Coping from the roof is blocking gates 1 and 2.
Image credit: Chris Digata.

Fly Tipping Exposed

The lowering of the river has exposed some major fly-tipping issues that are particularly bad in the Howley area near the weir. If the image of the fast-food bench simply dumped into the river isn’t unbelievable enough, there are 3 similar benches similarly dumped just upstream of it, as shown here and here in Chris Digata’s fantastic aerial drone footage of this drained section! They happen to be on the side of the river immediately adjacent to Wharf Industrial Estate.

The drone footage (here) also exposes fly-tipping in the region of Howley Quay, as shown clearly in the image below. Any connection with the lorries and nearby businesses is unclear – but it certainly looks like intentional fly-tipping by some unknown party and needs clearing up urgently before it gets washed into the water towards the sea. Each step of that journey renders it increasingly difficult to recover, and more likely to cause further damage to our fragile local and global ecosystems.

Apparent fly-tipping at Howley Quays, Warrington. Image credit: Chris Digata.

Ecological Impact

There are a couple of obvious things to comment on regarding this situation, namely the ecological impact of the litter its self which has already been alluded to, and that resulting specifically from the vandalism of the weir requiring the river to be drained in the first place.

Peel Ports are planning on having the work completed and river-levels restored by Thursday evening, according to a contact at the company – having begun the draining in a controlled manner the preceding Friday.

In the meantime though, the river is vulnerable to bank-collapse – both human-impacting as has been observed in the past, and wildlife-impacting including the risk of collapse of water-vole burrows – both due to both the drying out, and lack of support by the pressure of the water.

The impact of the lower water on invertebrates living in the river, including drying up of the mud in which most of them live, must also be considered. Invertebrates form a key component of the food-web in any freshwater system, and some are more able to survive temporary dry conditions than others.

With this stretch of river now being home to an increasingly healthy fish population, themselves providing food for kingfishers, herons, seals and other regularly observed vertebrates – anything that risks this needs to be taken as a serious concern. That this current risk has been caused by mindless vandalism is infuriating.

Our River is a Treasure

“Weir to Weir – River Scan – Warrington” – aerial footage captured this week shows clearly the natural beauty of our river. Video credit: Chris Digata.

Meandering from the east through Local Nature Reserves, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and public parks almost all the way into the centre of Warrington, the River Mersey is truly a jewel to be treasured with pride by all residents of Warrington and surrounding areas.

Over recent weeks I have become aware of a wide range of community groups and organisations who work directly with furthering the preservation of and the town’s appreciation for these wonderful river-side spaces (a topic for a future blog-post, which I’ll link to from here).

I passionately hope that together we can help the town appreciate how lucky we all are, and that perhaps that new-found love of our local environment will help reduce vandalism, littering and fly-tipping – as well as bring even more people forward to help organise and take part in litter-picks and other community-led projects.

It’s Our Environment – it’s up to all of us to play our part in looking after it.

Image credit: Paul Connor.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Liz Taylor says:

    Great reportage! Looking forward to working together, it was lovely to meet up! Liz T

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