A YEAR long citizen water testing programme of the River Wharfe in Ilkley started this week.

Untreated waste water is frequently discharged into the Wharfe from the the Ashlands Waste Water Treatment Plant in Ilkley causing severe localised water pollution.

Ilkley Clean River Group say this poses a threat to the health of people using the river for amenity and recreation and so on Monday they started the citizen water testing programme to test for pollutants.

Volunteers will spend a year collecting samples which will sent for analysis by ALS Ltd, a national fully accredited microbiological laboratory.

Representatives from Addingham Environment Group, Wharfedale Naturalists Society, Salmon and Trout Conservation, Ilkley Civic Society, Friends Of Ilkley Moor, Climate Action Ilkley and Ilkley Anglers Association joined the first testing session on Monday. The Wharfedale Riverfly monitors also did a Riverfly monitoring demonstration, while Professor Rick Battarbee, of Addingham Environment Group, trained the volunteers in how to do the water sampling. The samples are now at the laboratory being checked for chemical nutrients and coliform bacteria.

Becky Malby, of Ilkley Clean River Group said: “Whilst the Environment Agency is starting testing monthly in one site downstream from the sewage outflow, we wanted to test at a range of points and under multiple conditions so we can fully assess the quality of the water and whether the sewage outflow is having an impact on the river water quality.

“We also wanted to conduct more thorough water testing as neither Yorkshire Water, who are responsible for the discharges, nor the EA, who are responsible for protecting water quality, monitor coliform bacteria concentrations, yet these are the organisms most likely to give rise to public health concerns.

“Ilkley Clean River Group are initiating a coliform bacteria monitoring programme. Our overall objective is to assess the level of health risk to citizens using the river following storm-related discharges.

“If there is pollution that contravenes the Water Framework Directive then the Environment Agency would need to raise the consent limits to a level that ensures the river isn’t harmed by the sewage discharges, which in turn means that the Ashlands Sewage works would need to be upgraded.

“Our first pilot testing and training was funded by The Wharfedale Naturalists Society, and we have a donation from The Rivers Trust for equipment. We have a bid with the Town Council for the testing for the rest of the year.

“We will post any updates on https://sites.google.com/view/cleanwharfeilkley/home?authuser=0 and our Fecebook Page

“If you would like to get involved with Citizen Testing please get in touch.”