Yorkshire Water hopes new 'mega sewer' in Ilkley will improve the water quality of the River Wharfe

  • Matt Price reporting from Ilkley wastewater treatment works

A multi-million-pound 'mega sewer' is being built in Yorkshire to try and improve water quality of a nearby river.

Just under half a mile of piping has been laid under Ilkley in West Yorkshire to act as additional storage for wastewater during periods of heavy rainfall.

The new sewer is due to be commissioned for use in 2026.

Yorkshire Water is among many water companies which have been condemned by campaigners over the high levels of pollution and sewage in the country's waterways.

It was fined £19.85million by industry regulator Ofwat in 2023 for missing key performance targets.

The sewer runs underneath the A65, and is intended to improve the water quality of the River Wharfe - currently rated 'Poor' - by holding excess water during heavy rainfall which can then pumped to the Ilkley wastewater treatment works.

The project costs £15million and is designed to reduce the frequency of discharges from storm overflow by 40 percent.

Campaigners regularly test the river and claim to have found E.coli levels 30 times higher than the safe levels for bathing.

The River Wharfe's water quality at Ilkley is currently rated as 'Poor'.

Nicola Shaw, the chief executive of Yorkshire Water, said it was "absolutely necessary" that the company continues to work with farmers and other parties to take actions to continue to improve the water quality in the River Wharfe.

"This is a massive project over three or four years to improve and extend and enhance all of the treatment capacity here, that will then mean that people will, from Yorkshire Water's perspective, have a clean river to bathe in," she said.

Water quality campaigner Owen Wells from the Ilkley Clean River Group welcomed the development, but said it would not entirely resolve the problem.

"It will help, but it's not sufficient," he said.

"It will reduce the number of spills of raw sewage into our river [but] it won't stop them."

Water minister Robbie Moore said the government was "putting more investment" into the River Wharfe through Yorkshire Water, with the remit of "improving water quality".

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