STRINGENT controls on sewage in the Wharfe at Ilkley are being called for amid warnings not to use the river.

Ilkley Angling Association has been monitoring pollution since early 2016 and says the town is facing another year of raw sewage being discharged into the river. Both Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency (EA) strongly deny there is an on-going problem.

In their report Kathleen Roberts and Stephen Fairbourn from the association say: "It is our belief that the permit for the works should be revised and new and more stringent limits set for discharges. The frequency and nature of the current discharges indicates that the permit is not fit for purpose.

"Cleaning up debris following discharges is a welcome improvement on previous practice, but not a solution to the problem of frequent sewage discharge, some of it containing sewage solids and debris.

"We have been informed by the EA that they are now monitoring the site but it will be a year before any decision is taken over a new permit.

"This means that another year will pass with raw sewage being discharged into the river on a frequent basis."

They said the public were unaware of the dangers of bathing and paddling in the river or of using the exposed area by the outfall as a picnic area.

"We feel that if this disgraceful situation is to be allowed to continue, the least the authorities could do is to make the public aware that they should not be using the river for leisure purposes," they stressed.

Emily Brady from Yorkshire Water said Kathleen Roberts and Steve Fairbourn had highlighted an issue with the combined sewer overflow (CSO) at the treatment works in Ilkley.

"CSOs are strategic points on our sewer network that are designed to prevent external and property flooding during heavy rainfall by allowing dilute sewage in a storm to spill into a watercourse," she said.

Yorkshire Water operates about 1800 CSOs across the region and these are permitted by the Environment Agency.

Ms Brady said:"Kathleen and Steve noticed an increase in the discharges from our overflow and we reviewed how we operate the site and looked at whether there were any issues in the sewers that feed into the works. During our investigations we located a collapsed culverted watercourse that had been damaged during the Boxing Day floods and was causing the flow that should have remained in the culvert to enter the sewer network. The responsibility for the upkeep of culverted watercourse was with Bradford Metropolitan District Council so we worked with them and the Environment Agency to repair the culvert and ensure no more flow was entering the sewer from it.

"We've also fitted alarms on the outfall so we know when it is discharging and we can arrange for an operative to visit the site as soon as possible and clean up the area if it is safe to do so. We want to assure residents that we're operating Ilkley WWTW within the permit conditions set out by the Environment Agency. "

An Environment Agency spokesperson said the damaged culvert that was causing the problems had now been fixed.

He added: "We believe the situation at the Ashlands Road Wastewater Treatment Works to now be resolved and do not consider there to be a need for further action.

"We do not expect further operation of the overflow other than in storm conditions.

"A permit review would only be triggered if we were satisfied that the discharges from the works were causing a significant environmental impact or were not compliant with the permit. We do not consider either to currently be the case at Ashlands Road."

He said any unauthorised discharges in the future would be investigated, and he said people could report pollution incidents to the agency's hotline on 0800 80 70 60.