A campaign group says it has detected sewage in the River Swale at levels “way beyond” recommended limits and has called on Yorkshire Water to do more to tackle the problem.
Save Our Swale (SOS) spoke out this week after councillors at North Yorkshire Council voted to take urgent action to deal with pollution in the county’s rivers.
Responding to the vote, SOS said: “We are delighted to read in Richmondshire Today that North Yorkshire Council are to take urgent action to deal with pollution in our rivers.
“SOS, having completed a test run and one full water quality monitoring session on the September 24, can say that our equipment detected indications of sewage at some of the points tested, way beyond what is recommended.”
However, group spokesperson Hilary Plews said Yorkshire Water did not seem “overly concerned” about pollution in rivers.
“The 300-page price review PR24 for 2025-2030 tells us that customers’ bills will increase by 35% (taking into account inflation) from approximately £440pa to £630pa in 2030.
“This price hike means that water customers will be paying for infrastructure improvements that should reduce sewage dumping into our rivers by a mere 35% in 5 years.
“Customers will have to wait until quite a few of us are dead – 2050 – for sewage dumping to be restricted further.”
Hilary added: “Are not the sewerage charges in customers’ bills meant to cover the cost of cleaning up our sewage?
“If not, what on earth have we been paying for? Is it right or fair – or even legal – to expect water customers to pay twice?
“Yorkshire Water currently carries a net debt of £6.1 billion. 20% of customers’ water bills goes on servicing that debt. Meanwhile last year Yorkshire Water paid out £62million in dividends.”
In response, Yorkshire Water said that the £61m, while listed as a dividend, was not paid to external shareholders.
Instead, it related in part to costs incurred by other companies in the Kelda Group which are costs that support Yorkshire Water – for example corporate and governance costs – with some of the dividend returned to Yorkshire Water as part of the Kelda Group funding arrangements.
A Yorkshire Water spokesperson added: “Over 95% of the plans outlined in our PR24 submissions are to meet new statutory obligations. Through the price review process Ofwat reviews our business plan submissions to ensure water companies do not charge customers twice for investment and service levels that should already have been delivered.
“The plans we have submitted mark our largest ever environmental investment and includes £1.4bn to reduce the operations of storm overflows into the region’s watercourses.
“We have carefully balanced the cost of the investment with the need to keep bills affordable. If approved in its current format, the average bill will rise from £438.12 in 2024/25 (£36.51 per month) to £518.76 in 2025/26 (£43.23 per month) with small increases each year thereafter.
“Throughout the period 2025-2030, we will enhance our support for customers who may be struggling financially and are committed to providing all low-income households with access to our financial support.”