THIS PAGE IS CONSTANTLY UPDATED. UPDATES FROM 1ST AUGUST AT THE BOTTOM WITH STORIES FROM PEOPLE MADE ILL AFTER SWIMMING IN THE RIVER
On Monday 15th July we had rain in Ilkley for the first time for weeks. 15 minutes after the rain started Karen Shackleton, a concerned Ilkley resident, went and checked on the Yorkshire Water Sewage plant to find that raw sewage, including solids, was being pumped directly into the river. This is the latest of many many discharges.
We contacted Yorkshire Water via Twitter with pictures of the phosphate test that she took and of the effluent stuck to the grills and on the beach
Yorkshire Water sent someone out to clean the grills and then later to clean the pebble beach when we made a fuss on Twitter. But this isn't good enough. Surely they shouldn't be doing it in the first place under these normal rain conditions? And if they do surely it's not ok to be discharging solids and sanitary towels?
YW has a license to discharge sewage under under storm or snow melt conditions, after which they are required, we understand, to come down to Ilkley and clean up. We shouldn't be having to raise the issue every time it rains on twitter to get Yorkshire Water's attention. If they have made a discharge they should be here checking the banks are clean.
But lets step back a moment. Is it ok to discharge sewage into the Wharfe when it rains? This is the impact of raw sewage in our river....
Yorkshire Water say they are acting under the license set out by the Environment Agency. The Environment Agency which issues the permit says YW is acting legally and within the terms of the permit. This permit is designed to allow discharges under storm conditions and snowmelt. The EA will also tell you that the water quality they've tested is good.
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) aims to ensure waters are kept clean. The WFD classification tests for water quality. Both sites Ilkley and Otley have a high diversity of invertebrates and the communities are made up of a high abundance of pollution sensitive taxa. The water quality appears to have last been tested in 2015 as good. Otley is sampled every 3 years, spring and autumn. Ilkley is supposed to be tested 4 times a year according to a response from the Environment Agency (please see the Open Government Licence here for details of permitted use of the data we received ), but we cant see any recent publicly available data since 2015.
Back to the ongoing issue of regular discharges of raw sewage into the river...
The same happened in June this year. This is what Karen sent to Cllr Hawkesworth "The last discharge I reported was after the Ben Rhydding Fete on 16th June. We had a heavy shower, which lasted about 10 minutes. I went down to the Ashlands site and both storm tanks, which are there to contain any sudden deluges were completely empty. The river was that low the sewage was pouring out onto the pebble beach. We've had no rain since and therefore all that filth has been laying there in this heat festering since then. People are flocking down to the river to cool off and I've even had to explain to picnicers exactly what they are unknowingly sat in. I wouldn't let a dog in there, never mind children swim in it."
At the beginning of April the sewage was flowing out all week and Karen was phoning the Environment Agency reporting this when West Yorkshire Fire Service turned up to practice their open water rescue drills only metres upstream from the outlet.
So it's an ongoing problem
You can see a video here
The Angling Club, Ilkley Gazette and various Parish Councillors have all raised this in multiple years but despite video and photographic evidence, Yorkshire Water continue to say they are allowed to do this under their license. As a group of concerned residents we think either the license isn't fit for purpose or it's expected that YW behaves within the intent of the license not the letter of the license. We are pretty sure that at a minimum solids shouldn't be discharged into the river.
In fact Ilkley Gazette reported it in Feb 2017