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Yorkshire Water to update on £13m plan to clean up bathing waters at Ilkley

Yorkshire Water is holding a public meeting in Ilkley to provide further detail on timescales for its £13m investment in infrastructure upstream of the designated bathing water in the town.

The meeting, to be held at Ilkley Grammar School on 31st March, will include details of the bathing water monitoring and modelling carried out by Yorkshire Water and further detail of future investments in infrastructure. People will also receive updates on work carried out by Yorkshire Water already to reduce the impact of its assets on water quality

Richard Emmott, director of corporate affairs at Yorkshire Water, said: “Our interim modelling of the Wharfe at the Cromwheel (the Environment Agency’s designated sample point) and downstream of Beanlands Island concluded during dry weather conditions, there is a background concentration of bacteria which can be attributed to several sources. The investigations highlighted multiple sources of faecal indicator bacteria getting into the River Wharfe, which will require a collective effort across stakeholders to improve the ‘Poor’ classification. These include final effluent discharges from a number of our sewage treatment work assets upstream in the catchment - including Grassington, Beamsley and Draughton - diffuse bacteria including from the agricultural catchment upstream and a diurnal input, some of which may be attributed to misconnections.

“A misconnection is where a waste connection is made directly to a surface water system. These most frequently occur on a private connection and are the responsibility of the homeowner to fix, with the local authority having the power to enforce this. During wet weather conditions, there is a greater input of bacteria into the river, part of which can be attributed to the shorter duration impacts from combined sewer overflow spills. Our findings have been supported by third party investigations. The iWharfe report supports the agricultural impact on the water quality. Furthermore, the EA’s investigations also support there are multiple factors impacting the bathing water, including agriculture.

“Following on from our initial findings, we have identified several focus areas which will help improve the water quality of the Wharfe. These early solutions include disinfection feasibility for the final effluent discharges at Grassington, Beamsley and Draughton Sewage Treatment Works (STW). Here we have commissioned our consultants to consider different options of disinfection including ultraviolet treatment as well as lower carbon solutions. In addition to improving the water quality at the sampling point, the proposed work at Grassington, Beamsley and Draughton will bring benefits to the water quality to popular sites upstream of the bathing site, including at Bolton Abbey and Burnsall. Further additional work includes misconnection investigations including on the Spicey Beck catchment, and the transfer sewer in Ilkley. Once we have completed our work, it is not a guarantee that this will lead to the water quality meeting the ‘sufficient’ guidance for bathing water.

“Our ambition is that significant work will have taken place at Grassington, Beamsley and Draughton prior to the 2023 bathing water season. With schemes like this, it is important to note that these timescales maybe subject to change as they progress through detailed design, planning and permitting. Many businesses are facing supply chain issues, delaying or limiting access to materials. As a business, Yorkshire Water is not exempt from this, and will continue to be affected by global demands and supply chain pressures.

“In addition to this work, we have various capitals schemes either taking place or planned to take place over the coming years to improve the water quality on the river Wharfe and reduce discharges from our assets. Two schemes have been the subject of detailed investigation by our strategic consultants Stantec. The first is redirection of the sewer network to divert flows from Rivadale View CSO which discharges into the bathing water stretch and secondly reduction of surface water ingress from flows coming down from Ilkley Moor. The modelling shows that the greatest benefit will come from the redirection of the sewer network. The design of this scheme is considering online storage options within the proposed sewer, and storage options at Ilkley Sewage Treatment works so the newly transferred flows can be stored and returned to the treatment process rather than passing the storm discharges downstream.

“We are currently finalising the capital scheme and, subject to permitting, planning and approval of Bradford Council and the Environment Agency, we are hoping that we can start this work in 2022. This work will lead to a reduction in the number of spills of 33 per cent and volume of spills of over 50 per cent. This is a major package of work to improve the water quality of the Wharfe.

“Alongside this major capital scheme, we are working on a proposed solution to reduce surface water infiltration from Ilkley tarn into our network. We are working closely with Bradford Council and the Environment Agency to find the solution which will bring the most benefits to this area. We appreciate there may appear to be little progress with this scheme, however, a new model of the Backstone Beck catchment has been required to ensure the correct catchment solutions are identified. This is currently being developed by the Yorkshire Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP). Reduction of surface water from the tarn, will bring additional benefit on top of those set out above. Once the iCASP model is competed, we will be able to confirm the exact benefit in greater detail.

“In addition to this scheme, the upgrade of the screens at Rivadale View is now complete and the new screens are now operational. The final reinstatement and seeding is expected in the spring. “As part of our Periodic Review, we are reviewing the wider catchment. These plans are being developed in line with our requirements under the Water Industry National Environment Programme (WINEP) and will be subject to review from the EA and Ofwat under our WINEP and PR submissions. “As the bathing sampling point is upstream of Ilkley STW, our additional investment has focussed upstream of this point. We are continuing to have conversations with the Environment Agency to clarify the issue of the stretch applied for versus the sample point. We are of the firm view that sampling should reflect usage of the river throughout the stretch. Once this issue has been clarified this will enable us to look again at investment options for Ilkley STW.

“Yorkshire Water operates in a highly regulatory framework and funding for these projects has been accelerated and was not submitted into our business plans for this Annual Management Programme to begin to address the risks to the bathing water quality. We have allocated £13 million to upgrade our assets and improve our infrastructure to improve the water quality on the river Wharfe. This funding includes £8 million for the A65 sewer upgrade, and £600,000 for the Rivadale CSO upgrade. “Yorkshire Water supported the application for the bathing water designation, and we will continue to work within the existing regulatory framework to design solutions to contribute to meeting the ‘sufficient’ bathing water status.”

You can book a place at the meeting via


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