MORE than 100 people attended a public meeting on Thursday to discuss the problem of sewage discharging into the River Wharfe in Ilkley.

The Ilkley Clean River Campaign called the meeting, held at Ilkley Grammar School, to bring together parties interested in working together to secure a clean river and a better town environment.

Among those attending were representatives from Yorkshire Water, Ilkley Town Council and various local environmental campaign groups and Ilkley MP John Grogan.

The meeting heard there are 40 plus discharges into the river a year from the Ilkley sewage plant, with residents saying these happen even in light rain and not the storm conditions as set out in the EU Water Framework Directive.

The meeting voted for the consent limits (levels at which Yorkshire Water can legally discharge sewage into the River Wharfe) to be raised immediately and to try and get designated bathing status for Ilkley.

A spokesperson for the Ilkley Clean River Campaign said: “We are convinced that the consent limit is set too low. We were shocked that the estimated 40 plus discharges a year are legal. Overall the town was not impressed by the low tolerance the Environment Agency has set for discharges into the Wharfe, and their lack of concern for our river given they are supposed to protect out environment. We voted for the consent limit to be raised immediately.

“As for swimming the Town Council discussed warning signs at the meeting this week and is not prepared to put up warning signs as it could put tourists off coming to the town. Our view is that we have a responsibility to warn people they will get sick if they play or swim in the river, and that as a town we will continue to campaign for the limits to be raised to ‘storm levels’ which is where they should be set. We think the signage will help get everyone in the town’s attention to sort the problem out at source. John Grogan MP suggested we pursue getting Ilkley a Designated Bathing status like the Hampstead ponds in London, which will mean they have to clean up the river.”

Other actions agreed include: A group of residents to join a water testing team to test for organic pollution; The Yorkshire Rivers Trust to do a one day monitoring in April for the whole town to join in; Tesco is looking into water butts and whether they can run a publicity campaign so Ilkley residents can stop water going into the sewage system; Moorfield and IGS students will raise the issue in their schools and with other schools in Ilkley; the group will explore the legal route to take the Environment A gency to court for flouting the EU Water Framework Directive; Climate Action Ilkley will bring the issue of sustainable drainage into the Neighbourhood Development Plan so any new building doesn’t add to the problem and in the summer the group we will run a campaign of photos of people in the river.