SHOCKING analysis has revealed the extent at which raw sewage is entering North Yorkshire’s waterways as water companies are urged to do more to prevent spills.

Richmond saw among the highest incidents of raw sewage floods in North Yorkshire in 2020 as analysis by the Countryside Charity CPRE North Yorkshire reveals there were 4,812 spills in the district.

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This is second only to Skipton and Ripon which had 6,325, while Thirsk and Malton had 3,640 spills and Harrogate and Knaresborough 1,298.

CPRE’s analysis also shows that water companies dumped raw sewage 23,367 times into rivers and the sea in North Yorkshire in 2020.

Melsonby parish councillor William Nixon says he is ‘not surprised in the least’ that Richmond fares so badly in the sewage spill table as he has been calling for action on sewage flooding problems in his village for years.

Central Melsonby village is flooded every time there is a heavy downpour as manhole covers blow open leaving toilet detritus including human faeces to gush out before Northumbrian Water workers jet-wash it into a nearby stream.

Mr Nixon said: “The authorities and environment people know all about it, but it just seems to be an accepted thing that happens - it isn’t on their doorstep and we are the ones that suffer.”

Mr Nixon blamed overdevelopment for causing the problem in the village but said new houses were continually being forced on communities whether the existing sewer infrastructure can cope or not.

The Northern Echo:

William Nixon in Melsonby where manhole covers blow their tops during heavy rain

Rishi Sunak, MP for Richmond, Rishi Sunak said the Government has voted for package of measures in the Environment Act in a bid to reduce spills from storm overflows.

He said: “This includes a new duty directly on water companies to produce comprehensive statutory Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans, setting out how they will manage and develop their drainage and sewerage system, including how storm overflows will be addressed through these plans.

“In addition, the Government secured an amendment that says that water companies must secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impact of discharges from their storm overflows, placing a direct legal duty on water companies.

“Water companies must significantly reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows as a priority.

“And we as a government are acting to ensure they do.”

Yorkshire Water is responsible for the majority of the county’s water pipes, with United Utilities and Northumbrian Water also covering some fringe parts of the region.

Read more: Action demanded as village is flooded by human faeces and raw sewage during heavy rain

CPRE’s analysis shows that there were 19,361 spills from Yorkshire Water in 2020, Northumbrian Water recorded 2,247 and United Utilities 1,759.

A spokesman for Yorkshire Water says the firm is calling on Ofwat, the body responsible for economic regulation of the privatised water and sewerage industry in England, to allow it to invest more in the network over the next five years to reduce discharges.

He added: “We are committed to further improving the environmental performance of our wastewater assets and pollution in rivers is not something that we or our customers want.

“We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and making improvements in river quality is a key priority in our future plans, which includes further efforts to reduce intermittent discharges from CSOs (Combined Sewer Overflows).”

The Northern Echo:

Richmond MP Rishi Sunak

A spokesperson for United Utilities said the firm has invested £1.2 billion since 2000 to improve overflow discharges to reduce spill frequency, volume and impact.

Meanwhile, Northumbrian Water stressed that they have ‘a relatively small number of assets’ in the most northerly parts of North Yorkshire where their operating area overlaps county boundaries.

A spokesman said: “These assets include storm overflows which all water companies use at times of heavy rainfall as a relief valve on the sewer network.

“This is to protect the homes of customers and the environment from sewer flooding.

“Such discharges happen with both permission and scrutiny from the Environment Agency.

“During and after heavy rainfall conditions, storm overflows discharge what is mostly rainwater, mixed with some of the contents of our sewer network, from the area affected.

“We have installed sewer level monitors at over 98 per cent of our storm overflows for pollution prevention and operational reasons, and will be at 100 per cent by March 2022.

The Northern Echo:

The River Swale in Richmond Picture: Google

“Through this monitoring we ensure storm overflows are operating as they are designed to do in storm conditions.

“This also gives us the opportunity to respond quickly to any issues.

“While it is important to recognise there are historic shortcomings in the system and increased expectations on river health, we are committed to playing our part in improving our region’s rivers.

“Real progress is being made in improving monitoring, cutting pollutions and increasing transparency.

“We have a strong record in having contributed to 33 of the North East’s 34 designated bathing waters now being classified as ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ by Defra, and we want to replicate these improvements in our rivers.

“It is important to note, however, that many things affect river water quality, our operations being only a part of that, alongside factors such as highways and farming.”

Rosy Eaton, CPRE NY Biodiversity lead described rivers as 'the lifeblood of our landscapes'.

She said: "Wildlife rely on them for survival and increasing numbers of people use them for leisure.

"Pollution can have disastrous consequences for both wildlife and people. 

"CPRE North Yorkshire were appalled to learn that sewage was dumped 23,367 times into the rivers and sea in our area in 2020.

"North Yorkshire has some of the worst affected rivers in the country.

"Recent analysis by others suggests that raw sewage was spilled into the River Wharfe for 17,813 hours in 2020, the River Nidd for 16,077 and the River Ouse 15,338.

"Even the River Tees, although apparently less affected, still received over 5000 hours of raw sewage.

"Something must be done urgently about these staggering levels of pollution.

"We want to see water companies take immediate action to address the problem and for Government and industry regulator OFWAT to monitor, investigate and regulate to make sure water companies make the investment needed."

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