Raw Sewage in the Wharfe - our campaign to make our river clean
THIS PAGE IS CONSTANTLY UPDATED.
Ilkley Town Meeting: The Solution is Less Pollution: Protecting The Wharfe & Ilkley Environment.7th February 17.30 - 19.30, Ilkley Grammar School. Register here
What more can be done so our Town can have a clean River? What else are we doing in Ilkley to protect our environment? This meeting is a chance to find out more about the issues and also see what we can do as a community. Anyone is welcome.
Ilkley Residents have been trying to get to the bottom of the increasingly regular raw sewage discharges into the Wharfe at Ilkley Sewage works. They are now holding a Town Meeting to discuss how to protect the Wharfe and town environment in the face of very slow progress. The Town Council and John Grogan MP have met with the Environment Agency (EA) and Yorkshire Water and have been active in trying to get the problem solved, but its proving to be one of those issues where its tricky to find out who is responsible and who should act. This meeting is to get to the bottom of who should be taking responsibility for thee water quality in our river. Meanwhile we have found out that residents don't know that:
- 1. Ilkley Sewage plant discharges raw sewage into the Wharfe when it rains
- 2. The river is not designated for bathing and is contaminated
So the meeting will also inform residents about the current situation - which we think is unacceptable in a Spa town. We have lots of stories of people getting sick after swimming in our river, we have hardly any fish, and we are in danger of permanently destroying our river.
It's not just Yorkshire water and the EA that need to act, we can play our part as a Town. As well as posing questions to the Agencies and our representatives, there will also be an opportunity to discuss what more we can do as a town. For instance we could help reducing the overall volume going into the sewage works (from house waste and from rainfall), by stopping rain run off from buildings going into the drainage system as its high volumes of water that trigger the direct discharge. At the meeting we will be looking to see how any large buildings (Schools, Supermarkets, The Pool, Care homes ) in Ilkley can get involved in ways of preventing run off through Sustainable Drainage Systems - making hard surfaces permeable, intercepting roof water, creating rain gardens and building soakaways. We can also all help by only flushing the 3Ps down our loos (can you guess what they are?). Yorkshire Water is supporting these schemes in other towns. Finally we are discussing the new 'sustainability section' of the Ilkley Neighbourhood Plan which can include all forms of pollution and its a chance for businesses and residents to get involved.
We also want to thank Ilkley Grammar School for providing us with space to hold this meeting, and its commitment to the Town and environment.
The Town Council has written again to the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water. See their update here
New info: Plans to pipe the sewage from Addingham to Ilkley were made in 1968/9, and seems there has been no increase in storm tank capacity at all since then, despite the large number of houses built post 1980. So we take both Addingham and Ilkley capacity despite the increase in housing across both towns.
The Environment Agency seems to think the level of discharge of sewage into or river is absolutely fine. We are asking for the limits to be raised (the level of inflow at which sewage is allowed to be discharged). The limit is supposed to be at 'storm level' but actually in Ilkley it is every time it rains.
20th December Sewage Discharge into the Wharfe at Ilkley and Addingham
Here is todays discharge 2nd Dec (which we think is an illegal one). Why are the limits being reached at low levels of rain (ie drizzle)? Well a mix of climate issues, increased population, and buildings that send run-off (rain off roofs) directly into the sewage system rather than into the ground. Yorkshire Water has checked for inflitration and its not that.
Environment Agency report to Town Council 1st October
Overall we got the impression the Envt Agency License Yorkshire Water operates under at the Ilkley Plant is a license to print money not a license to protect our river or our town. The license is clearly not fit for the Ilkley and Addingham population that is serves, and certainly not for the planned growth in that population. In fact it looks like no planning has taken place at all. The EA officer says he's happy to swim in the river in Otley - guess we could all go there then!! The license isn't being properly monitored given the Town's concern, including spot water quality checks. A new check point is being put in place and it wil take a year for the results to be sufficient to be useful!! And finally the EA isn't responsible for people's health.
We know that:
- The water quality is declining
- Very little rain (10mm) triggers an outpouring of raw sewage into the river - so the license isn't fit for purpose
- The sewage works doesn't have capacity for the town
- There hasn't been any real planning for current or future capacity
- No-one cares about people swimming in the river - apparently everyone does it knowing that there is raw sewage being discharged all the time.
It seems the only solutions seems to be ones that cost YW hardly any money - because it would pass this onto customers rather than take it out of it profits. We are the customers and so we might have something to say about that. We want some of the annual profits being made on the back of turning our river into an open sewer to go on upgrading the sewage works in Ilkley.
UPDATE AFTER TOWN COUNCIL MEETING 3rd Sept.
Issue 1: Discharge within the license Storm Conditions: August 27th it rained all day. Wharfedale Naturalists recorded a total fall of 10mm over the day (1 cm). Yorkshire Water was discharging untreated sewage directly into the Wharfe again. At the Town Council Meeting YW was challenged. Their response was the catchment area generates the conditions for discharge at this low level. Our response is - we need a plant that can cope with the population size and catchment area. We cannot have raw sewage released into the Wharfe every time it rains in Ilkley (which as we know is very regularly).
Issue 2: Solids being discharged. Yorkshire Water has agreed to put 2 x 6mm screens on the outflow. So now we shouldn't see scenes like our photos below again. Yorkshire Water has been cleaning up after discharge when we notify them, so we are looking forward to this happening unprompted from now on. This was a key goal for our campaign and its great to see progress.
Issue 3: Temporary Pump. YW has increased the capacity of the works with a temporary pump, with the plan to put a permanent one in - however that was before the 27th August 1cm rainfall, so it doesn't seem to make a difference when it rains. This looks like an ineffective solution for the real issue of raw sewage discharge.
Issue 4: Planned upgrade. We requested YW bring forward the planned upgrade, which is due 20124, to reflect the needs of the population (and the closure of the Addingham site). YW say they will get back to us and have offered a site visit with us (Town Council and local residents campaign group). We are campaigning for a 2019 upgrade.
What next? We need warning signs up about the fact its not safe to swim. Hoping the council will request these signs. We heard from people swimming in the Burley weir how have been taken ill. If you have been ill or your dogs have been ill after swimming in the river please let us know .
THIS IS WHERE WE STARTED:
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