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Ilkley campaigners continue fight to clean up River Wharfe

Ilkley campaigners continue fight to clean up River Wharfe

Published by Lisa Darvill at 7:17am 20th February 2020. (Updated at 7:19am 20th February 2020)

People in Ilkley are getting an update on the campaign to stop sewage being spilled into the River Wharfe. 

For the last 18 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. 

river wharfe sewage ilkley
Yorkshire Water is allowed to release sewage from these grates in certain conditions

 

Kathleen Roberts, from the Ilkley Clean River Group, said: 

"The most recent figures we've had from Yorkshire Water from April to December, we're talking about 130 plus discharges. 

"That's an awful lot of discharges. It's regular, it's routine. 

"It's not in extreme weather conditions, which is when it's supposed to happen."

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

river wharfe sewage ilkley
The grates are situated near a popular bathing spot by the suspension bridge

 

As part of their campaign, they also want the river to be a designated bathing site, which would give this stretch of water extra protection. 

If they do, it'll be the first river given the special status in the UK. 

Kathleen added: 

"It would mean the discharges could not happen so frequently. It would mean they would have to be monitored. 

"Other people have attempted getting designated bathing status. But we feel very strongly that where people are bathing in rivers or streams they should be able to do so safely. 

"We would like to be a role model for other people so they can follow the same process we have done."

The group has organised a public meeting with Yorkshire Water and The Environment Agency tonight at 6pm at Ilkley Grammar School.  

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

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said:

"We continue to have a constructive relationship with the Ilkley Clean Rivers Group and support their application to achieve bathing water designation for the River Wharfe, which would make it the first inland bathing water in the country.

"If achieved, we, like other stakeholders would need to make changes to maintain the designation, this would focus on the capacity of the combined sewer network which has been designed to deal with both foul and surface water."

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."