A CAMPAIGN group is demanding Ilkley households get a 50 per cent discount on the rate they pay for the treatment of waste water, including sewage, a large proportion of which is being discharged, untreated, into the River Wharfe.

Clean River Campaign, supported by Climate Action Ilkley, has written to Nicola Shaw, the chief executive of Yorkshire Water, to seek compensation for residents.

The letter signed by Prof R Malby, David Damant, Anne Harding, Stephen Fairbourn, Di Lury, Isla Lury, Kathleen Roberts, Karen Shackleton, Owen Wells, and James Wood and copied to Mark Stidworthy mayor of Ilkley Town Council reads: “In 2021-22 Ilkley Households were billed for ‘sewerage’. This is the charge for taking away and treating the water you use. This charge includes water that drains from roads and footpaths into public sewers.

“In 2021-22 Yorkshire Water discharged sewage and household water into the river at Ilkley for 1252.75 hours over 146 days of the year. In previous years this has been 2018 - 123 days, and 2019 - 114, 2020- 120.

“For over a third of the year untreated sewage is being discharged into the Wharfe at Ilkley. For that duration Ilkley residents have been paying for sewerage that was not being provided.

“When other companies do not provide the services as described they issue compensation. For example, Virgin Media offers an automatic ‘speed apology’ refund on your bill when the service you are receiving does not match the broadband speed for which you are paying.

“Ilkley households have not received compensation for 2021-22, or the previous years where we have on record the same frequency of non-delivery (sewage not being treated but discharged through the storm overflow directly into the river).

We are, therefore, requesting compensation for Ilkley households (for) the four years we have on record where household sewerage services have not been delivered based on data supplied by Yorkshire Water to the Ilkley Clean River Group.

"At minimum we expect a refund of the portion of the household bill related to sewerage for those four years. This does not of course compensate for the damage to our river or the impact on those whose health has been put at risk.

"Visitors with their children and local children use the river below the sewage treatment works where as yet you have failed to provide warning signs that adequately inform the public of the risk.

"Despite the volume of reporting, footage of the storm overflows in operation, and the fact that the frequency exceeds all limits (SOAF - Storm Overflow Assessment Framework - states 40 per year on a regular basis; the water industry Act 1991) you continue to use the EA permit as a licence to pollute with complete disregard for Ilkley customers' expectations.

"We would therefore also expect an additional compensation in relation to this misuse of our custom. At minimum we would expect a refund of 50 per cent of the last year’s proportion of the bill for sewerage. We expect this compensation to be issued to every Ilkley household as a lump sum. Example; one household bill for 2022-23 sewerage is billed at £263.45. We are expecting a lump sum payment of £132 to this household."

The clean river group has long been campaigning about a nearby Yorkshire Water Sewage Treatment Works which discharges raw sewage into the Wharfe especially after heavy rainfall.

Warnings sings were placed near the river earlier this year to indicate possible pollution, but Prof Maltby of the Ilkley Clean River Group says that the signs do not give the full picture about the level of pollution in the river and are not a deterrent to swimmers in the warm weather.

As a result, claims the group, several children fell sick after swimming in the river in recent weeks, with one missing a GCSE exam.

A Yorkshire Water spokesman said: "We understand the growing interest in our network in Ilkley, particularly due to the newly designated bathing water in the town, and have committed £13m to help improve water quality. Our networks in Ilkley operate in line with environmental permits set out by the Environment Agency. We will not be issuing refunds to customers in the town.”