Fight to clean river moves on

A fight to rid the River Wharfe of sewage and pollution has been taken to the Government.

Wednesday, 8th July 2020, 10:20 am
Rubbish in the River Wharfe at Wetherby. Picture by Beneath British Waters.

Local ward councillors Alan Lamb, Norma Harrington and Linda Richards last presented the case of discharge into the river during a video conference last week with a Minister from DEFRA, Rebecca Pow MP, and local MP Alec Shelbrooke.

The councillors said they were pleased pleased that the Council’s Environment, Housing and Communities Scrutiny Board are aiming to investigate this matter before the end of this municipal year.

Coun Lamb said: “I’m happy to say it was a positive meeting, we were able to put forward our points, and the Minister has asked to be kept informed of how the Council’s Scrutiny investigation into this matter is progressing.

Pollution on the River Wharfe at Wetherby. Picture by Beneath British Waters.

“As Ward Members, we look forward to working with Scrutiny and then being able to feed back the findings.”

The problem was brought to the public attention by Wetherby resident Mark Barrow of Beneath British Waters.

He has spent the past 30 years filming fish life in the River Wharfe in Wetherby but has noticed an increase in sewage.

“The problem of sewage entering the River Wharfe at Wetherby but also upstream and downstream has been shocking over the last year,” Mark told the Wetherby News, following the meeting.

“I myself have filmed major discharges of sewage entering the River Wharfe at Wetherby on various occasions and I need to stress all my filming of the raw sewage discharges have been done in non extreme weather conditions ie light rain or a dry day when the river is low and not in spate.

“The discharges contain raw human waste with sanitary towels, wipes, condoms, in fact anything that gets flushed down the toilet can and does get discharged into the river on occasions.”

Coun Harrington added that there is an important message for residents to remember in their everyday life and to help clean up the river.

“Please remember the 3 Ps – Pee, Paper and Poo are the only things that should be flushed down the toilet. Nothing else.

“Other foreign objects clog up the treatment plant meaning the system backs up and could discharge into the river – and this is acceptable under the current rules. “While we investigate whether the rules themselves are acceptable, you can do your bit by not putting things down the toilet that shouldn’t be there.

“Just because something says it is flushable, doesn’t mean it should be flushed away. ”

Councillor Linda Richards (Conservative, Wetherby Ward), said: “Ensuring the Wharfe stays clean will bring so many benefits to our community. There

are the obvious environmental ones such as encouraging biodiversity, but also by keeping Wetherby an attractive place to live, we can keep our community thriving too.”

Rt Hon Alec Shelbrooke MP told the News: “I’m grateful to Wetherby councillors for the work they’ve been doing with the Beneath British Waters campaign.

“I wanted to arrange a meeting with the Minister so we could raise this local issue at the highest national level.

“I’m pleased that we now have some outcomes to work towards, including a detailed scrutiny investigation by the local authority, which the Minister has asked to be personally kept informed about.”

Mark Burrow said he often wonders about people bathing in the river, as has been seen in recent hot weather.

“I have filmed in the River Wharfe at Wetherby for over 30 years and pick my areas where to film upstream of any discharge areas and I often do wonder about people bathing in the water, more so when you hear about reports of Covid possibly in sewage too, is this not a health risk?

“I have been working on this for the last two years and I want this taking to a government level and legislation changing to stop any further discharges.

“We owe it to nature but also to ourselves as more and more people are turning to water for their own well being but also for swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling.

“Our rivers should be fit for purpose and should be how nature intended them to be and not how we dictate by using them as an open sewer.”