RAW sewage is being pumped into the Wharfe at Ilkley after just a few minutes of rain, it is being claimed. Now people are being warned not to swim in the river near the outfall - and calls are being made for a tightening of controls. Yorkshire Water insists waste is only released into rivers during storm conditions to prevent flooding to homes and gardens. But campaigners say just 15 minutes of rain during the hot dry summer led to raw sewage, including solids and sanitary towels, being pumped into the river.
Ilkley residents Karen Shackleton and Becky Malby have produced an extensive report into the issue which they have posted on social media, highlighting incidents in June, and July.
Now the town’s MP John Grogan is arranging a meeting to discuss the problem with local campaigners and senior representatives of Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency.
He said: “Evidence is mounting that sewage seems to be being discharged into the river on a regular basis not just in storm conditions. Secondly there is a very strong case for tightening up Yorkshire Water’s permit at the Ashlands Road site. The River Wharfe is perhaps Ilkley’s greatest natural asset along with the moor and we must take great care of both.”
Ward councillor Anne Hawkesworth has written to the Chief Executive of Yorkshire Water highlighting concerns.
She said: “Residents claim that discharge takes place outside permitted conditions and that unpleasant solids both organic and otherwise are found on the river banks and in the water. This is not acceptable.”
She added: “I think anyone should be very chary of swimming anywhere near the outfall.”
After an incident in June Karen Shackleton said: “People are flocking down to the river to cool off and I’ve even had to explain to picnickers exactly what they are unknowingly sat in. I wouldn’t let a dog in there, never mind children swim in it.”
A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said: “It is common practice for water companies across the country to use overflows from treatment works. They act as a relief valve which allows heavily diluted waste water to be released into rivers during storm conditions. The site in Ilkley is closely monitored with the Environment Agency and we’re satisfied the site is fully operational and well within the permit conditions set out by the EA. Were these valves in Ilkley not in place to relieve the pressure on the network, the storm water could back up and flood customers’ homes or gardens. This overflow only activates when there’s been heavy rainfall, and our technicians visit the site as quickly as possible to check and clean up if necessary.”
An Environment Agency spokesperson said: "The Environment Agency frequently assesses operations at Yorkshire Water’s Ilkley Sewage Treatment works against the conditions of its environmental permit, which is designed to protect people and the environment.
"Whilst we are satisfied that the works are compliant with the conditions of its environmental permit, we would encourage anybody who sees untreated sewage in any part of the river to report it to our incident hotline number 0800 80 70 60 so that we may investigate and hold those responsible to account."