A riverside resident says he is increasingly frustrated with the lack of action to stop sewage being poured into Ouse in York.
Sewage overflow into the river in the city centre is frequent, according to Michael Neal.
He has regularly captured pictures of a slick of effluent flowing under Ouse Bridge.
The problem has worsened in the last ten years, he says.
“Every time rainfall is a little stiffer than normal, there is a flow of waste in the Ouse.
“A good five-minute storm makes it erupt. The system works like a toilet with the deposit flushed away; except this is like a football stadium emptying its bowels into the river.”
Michael often takes a coffee in Coney Street and has noticed a strong sewage smell near Boots Chemists. “It only lasts ten to fifteen paces, but it is absolutely appalling, there is a horrific smell and this must be where the storm drain goes into the water.”
Michael is speaking out because he feels the obvious problems “have completely fallen on deaf ears and no one wants take on the problem.
“There are a number of people in the frame, including the citizens of York, who have not been active enough in demanding action be taken. But also Yorkshire Water, the River Trust, the council and the Environment Agency.
“Nobody wants to take responsibility.
“There has been a big campaign down south but I have not seen anything here.
“I have not seen anyone come to measure the water quality, or anything like that. As I look out from my window, I see zero care for the river bank.
“There are weeds growing from the bank outside the King’s Arms pub, and the river is neglected.”
Concerns about safety
Michael, 64, lives in Skeldergate with a “prominent view of and has a love for the city”. He grew up in the heart of York in the 1970s and lived at the Black Swan Pub, owned by his parents.
He has lived in the centre of the city since he was nine years old, and “did everything that you shouldn’t.
“I jumped off every bridge, swam in the Ouse at school dinner time, canoed up the river, and enjoyed every minute of it”.
He would like all our children today to have his fun and freedom. There are the obvious changes in attitude but there are also concerns about the safety of the water quality.
This is what a Yorkshire Water spokesperson told us after we raised Michael’s points with them.
“Our storm overflows operate during periods of heavy or prolonged rainfall as this causes high flows within the sewer network.
“They operate under a permit granted by the Environment Agency to prevent flooding in homes, gardens and the local environment.
“We completely understand the increased public interest in river quality in our region. We know that our storm overflows operate more often than we and our customers would like and we’re working hard to make improvements across the region.
“We’re investing £790m to improve rivers across the region, including £137 million by 2025 to enhance, investigate and increase monitoring on storm overflows.
“Now spill targets have been clarified by the government, meeting these targets will be a core part of our next five-year plan for Yorkshire and we will look to go beyond the regulatory measures with our customers’ and regulators’ support.”
A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said they had had no reports about a problem on this stretch of the River Ouse. They urged concerned residents to report issues via their hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
As for the weeds on the river bank, Ben Grabham, head of environmental services at City of York Council, said: “The river is a natural environment and the likelihood of some plants seeding and weeds forming is inevitable.
“City of York Council periodically undertakes clean ups along the river walks and on the banks of the river. However, it has been brought to our attention that some litter has gathered on the stretch near the Ouse bridge.
“We will take action to ensure that this is removed as soon as possible.”