ILKLEY is facing at least a decade of raw sewage in its river, according to campaigners.

The claim has come from the Ilkley Clean River Group, which says the Environment Agency has written to it saying that investment needed to prevent raw sewage discharges into the Wharfe won’t happen for at least another ten years - and possibly 15.

Residents have been reporting a problem with the sewage works since February 2016. The Clean River Group campaign began in earnest in 2018 and local people said they were horrified to find that the river their children paddled in every summer was polluted and frequently a risk to human health.

Campaigner Becky Malby described the Environment Agency's response as "shocking."

"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," she said.

The Ilkley Clean River Group says Yorkshire Water self-reported 136 discharges of raw sewage between April and December 2019 over 77 days. The group collected evidence over the past year showing that thousands of people use the river at Ilkley in the summer and it says its programme of citizen water-testing has demonstrated that there is a threat to public health from the sewage in the river.

But campaigners say the Environment Agency has told them investment to solve the problem won’t be made available until 2030 to 2035.

In a statement the group said: "Yorkshire Water has been working with the town to try and tackle the problem and is hoping that investment can be brought forward by at least five years.

"The Environment Agency in their letter to the Ilkley Clean River Group states that the Yorkshire Water self-reporting does not meet their criteria for demonstrating high spills."

The group adds: "The monitoring equipment needed for precise monitoring has only just been installed at Ilkley, but it is possible using Yorkshire Water’s data to 'add up' the reported spills using the EA requirements and the Group have shown that Ilkley is a 'high spiller.'

"The Environment Agency says they will review the data in 2021 to decide if Ilkley discharges 'frequently'. That is three years after the Ilkley Clean River Group and the Town Council brought the problem to their attention.

"In addition The Ilkley Clean River Group disputes the EA interpretation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, which clearly states that sewage should be discharged only in extreme and exceptional circumstances. In our view that is only when the river is flooding, which would be twice in 2019. The EA is tolerating up to 60 days as 'normal' and acceptable and not requiring investigation.

"The public is already shocked that sewage is being discharged untreated into rivers, and will be equally shocked to find the EA accepting up to 60 days of discharge as acceptable."

It adds: "Ilkley Clean River group has been testing the Wharfe and shown that the e-coli in the river is linked to sewage discharges. Discharges of untreated sewage are happening throughout the summer months as well as in the winter when it rains, even in very low rainfall."

The group stressed: "The EA need to act quickly, as promised, to address this problem and move to identifying a solution immediately that protects our river and the people that use it from this excessive pollution."

On Thursday February 20 Ilkley people will meet with the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and MP Robbie Moore to discuss the issue. The meeting will take place from 6pm to 7.15pm at

Ilkley Grammar School B hall. Seventy people have registered for the event.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: "The Environment Agency is in discussion with Ilkley Clean River Campaign and Ilkley Town Council regarding Yorkshire Water's Ilkley Wastewater Treatment Works.

"We frequently assess operations at the Ilkley treatment works against the conditions of its environmental permit, which is designed to protect people and the environment. We have secured extra funding for additional chemical and biological monitoring upstream and downstream of the works. At the end of this 12-month sampling period we will review the evidence to assess if any further investigations or actions are necessary to protect the environment.

"We would encourage anybody who sees untreated sewage in any part of the river to report it to our incident hotline number 0800 80 70 60 so that we may investigate."