Damaging pollutant found in Semerwater and River Bain

Charlotte Simons of the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust and student Tom Throssel at Stalling Busk.

By Betsy Everett

High levels of a damaging pollutant have been found in Semerwater and the River Bain despite a nationwide programme to reduce water pollution from farms.

Now environment experts are asking householders in Raydale, one of the smallest and most picturesque of the Yorkshire Dales, and home to one of only three of Yorkshire’s natural lakes, to check they are complying with new rules covering domestic sewage disposal.

Recent sampling by the Environment Agency has shown raised levels of phosphate in Semerwater, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, and its outlet river, the Bain.

Excess phosphate feeds algae which block out light to the water and use up oxygen, suffocating aquatic insects and fish.

Rita Mercer of the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, which is surveying 60 households in Raydale, said farmers had done a lot of work with the Yorkshire Dales national park authority on reducing water pollution in Raydale and now attention was turning to domestic sewage systems, through the Trust’s Call of Nature project.

“We have been giving advice about the new rules covering septic tanks and waste discharge, and asking if people would be interested in a small sewerage system which could be installed by Yorkshire Water.

“Householders would be given the choice of contributing financially to such a system and we will soon be in discussion with the parish council about it,” said Rita.

Raydale has three hamlets, Marsett, Stalling Busk and Countersett.

All households above Countersett, which has its own sewage disposal system, have septic tanks.

“One of the problems in this area is with holiday cottages where the occupants are not familiar with anything other than a mains system.

“Another issue is the increased use of dishwasher and laundry detergents, many of which have a high level of phosphate which then gets into the water course.

“We are also encouraging householders who have septic tanks to make sure they follow the rules about regular emptying and maintenance,” she added.

Call of Nature aims to raise awareness of offline sewage treatment and offers advice on operating sewage systems in line with the law, and interpreting new rules, more of which will apply from 2020. See http://callofnatureyorkshire.info/ and for more information contact Rita at rita.mercer@yorkshiredalesriverstrust.com

This week Charlotte Simons of the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, and Leeds University student, Tom Throssel, who is doing a masters degree in river management, were distributing leaflets in Stalling Busk, and called at the tiny St Matthew’s Church to chat to residents.