The Environment Agency says nothing will be done to stem the flow of sewage into a Yorkshire river popular with swimmers and families until at least 2030.
Despite acknowledging that the level of sewage discharges into the River Wharfe at Ilkley – which have been admitted by Yorkshire Water – should trigger an investigation, the EA told campaigners nothing will happen for 10 years.
In correspondence with campaigners from the Yorkshire town, who are trying to clean up their river, officials from the agency said any solutions to the problem of sewage discharge would not be considered and delivered until the ninth asset management period (AMP9), which would run from 2030 to 2035.
Becky Malby, on behalf of the Ilkley Clean River campaign, said: “This is not the service we expect from our regulatory body. The public expectation is that now the problem has been identified and acknowledged, something will be done to address it as a matter of urgency.”
They are one of several groups across the country attempting to have rivers designated “bathing water quality” – a higher level of water cleanliness – to force the agency to take tougher action against water companies discharging untreated sewage.
The chair of the EA, Emma Howard Boyd, told the Guardian this month the move to seek bathing water quality for rivers, in line with coastal waters, was a “game changer” for inland water quality.
Yorkshire Water released data to the Ilkley campaigner that revealed there had been 136 discharges from combined sewage overflows (CSOs) into the river, between April to December 2019, representing 77 days of sewage leaks
The Environment Agency regulations state that spills of more than 60 per year should trigger an investigation into discharges from CSOs.
But Ilkley campaigners who have carried out their own testing of a stretch of the River Wharfe, which is used by thousands of people each year to swim and play in, are furious that the agency is telling them to wait until at least 2030 for any investigation and remedial action to be taken.
There are an estimated 15,700 combined sewage overflows where the EA permits water companies to discharge untreated sewage into rivers in extreme weather conditions but analysis shows the overflows are discharging sewage far more often than they should be, according to a report by WWF.
Just 14% of rivers are rated as good under the EU water framework directive, which provides a baseline quality for the health of wildlife and habitats in inland waters.
Despite the water company’s admissions on sewage spills into the river, the Environment Agency told Ilkley Clean River Campaign they would not mount an investigation until data on the sewage spills had been gathered by new monitors which it is requiring water companies to fit to their combined sewage overflows.
The government gave water companies a deadline of 2020 to fit monitors to the majority of CSOs. According the agency, by this March 13,000 out of 15,000 will have monitoring installed.
An EA spokesperson said: “The Environment Agency will always investigate allegations of illegal sewage discharges.
“For this particular case the storm sewage in question is from the Ashlands Road Wastewater Treatment Works which receives and treats wastewater from the Ilkley area, we have carried out a number of ecological and chemical tests to assess whether the discharges had any impact on local fish and invertebrate populations, but no clear impact was found.
“These investigations also confirmed they are operating within the conditions set out in their permit, and we do not consider that the works are causing a significant adverse environmental impact.
“Looking ahead, we will continue to work with the Ilkley Clean River Group and Yorkshire Water to monitor discharges and are currently looking at ways to reduce their frequency.”
The post Sewage will flow into Ilkley river until at least 2030, says government appeared first on The Guardian.