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"Help keep our river clean": Ilkley residents to raise pollution fears with Environment Agency

"Help keep our river clean": Ilkley residents to raise pollution fears with Environment Agency

Published by Lisa Darvill at 7:19am 3rd July 2019.

A campaign group in Ilkley are set to meet with the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water next week as they continue their campaign to clean up the River Wharfe. 

  • The Ilkley Clean River Group say raw sewage is being released into the river too often
  • Waste from a treatment works near the suspension bridge is allowed to be released under certain conditions 
  • But residents say, on average, it's happening more than once a week 
  • They've been campaigning for the last 12 months and are meeting with the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water next week 
  • They're urging members of the public to come to the meeting and help report cases of pollution 

For the past 12 months, The Ilkley Clean River Group has been raising concerns about the amount of sewage being released from the treatment works on Ashlands Road near the suspension bridge.

Waste is allowed to be released into the water in certain conditions, such as after heavy rain or snow.

But residents who've been monitoring this section of the river claim the sewage is being pumped into the river too often. The Ilkley Clean River Group say raw sewage was discharged into the Wharfe at Ilkley 35 times in 2018 over a period of circa 71 days. 

river wharfe sewage ilkley
Sewage from a nearby treatment works is released into the river through these gates


They want Yorkshire Water to only be allowed to put raw sewage in the Wharfe in extreme storm conditions, which would only be a few times a year. 

The group have organised a public meeting with Yorkshire Water and The Environment Agency on 11th July at 5.30pm at Christchurch on The Grove. 

They're urging members of the public to come along to the meeting and help the campaign. 

Karen Shackleton, a member of The Ilkley Clean River Group said:

"We're applying for bathing water status which will mean Yorkshire Water have to clean up the quality of our rivers. 

"We have to count people using the river twice a week under certain circumstances.

"So we would like volunteers to help us this year so we can go back and say look, people are using our river.

"We just need general support to show the level of public feeling and disgust at what's happening in our beautiful town."

The group are encouraging people to come to next week's meeting. 

You can sign up to attend the meeting at

Karen says there's also been problems in another location. 

She added:

"We've also found maintenance problems further up the river on a riverside path where sewage was coming up out of manhole covers.

"This is a public footpath that leads to a children's play park." 

Yorkshire Water say they started clearing this by de-silting the sewer as soon as possible. 

ilkley sewage
Karen also claims sewage has also been coming up out of manhole covers on a riverside path


An Environment Agency spokesperson said:

"The Environment Agency is in discussion with Ilkley Clean River Campaign and Ilkley Town Council regarding Yorkshire Water's Ilkley Wastewater Treatment Works.

"We frequently assess operations at the Ilkley treatment works against the conditions of its environmental permit, which is designed to protect people and the environment. We have secured extra funding for additional chemical and biological monitoring upstream and downstream of the works. At the end of this 12-month sampling period we will review the evidence to assess if any further investigations or actions are necessary to protect the environment.

"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."

A spokesperson for Yorkshire Water 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. We operate many overflows across the region and these are permitted and monitored by the Environment Agency.

"The site in Ilkley is closely monitored by ourselves and the Environment Agency and we're satisfied the site is fully operational and well within the permit conditions set out in the consent to discharge issued by the EA. If this overflow at the treatment works was not in place to relieve the pressure on the network during heavy rain, the storm water could back up and flood customers' homes or gardens. It could also lift manholes in the street and allow sewage to escape.

"We have records of the flows of waste water entering the site and cross check these with the consent. If a discharge is reported to the Environment Agency we share this data with their officers to show that the overflow has operated within its consent.

"Recently we have installed a pump on site to help pump more waste water into the works to reduce the amount that is spilled as well as a new screen to go on the overflow that helps to trap more debris."