MP accuses Yorkshire Water of having no Plan Pea in Hull smell row

Residents “paid the price” for Yorkshire Water not preparing for a bumper pea season which led to some of the worst ever whiffs of “Saltend pong” from a sewage plant near Hull, according to a new report.

Yorkshire Water Chief Executive Richard Flint

In the report Beverley and Holderness Graham Stuart MP accused the company of failing to make provision for a 60 per cent increase in the amount of effluent from a pea processing plant in Hull.

During this year’s pea season “windows had to be closed, washing was not able to be hung out, people did not want to go out to walk of jog, and going to bed at night with open windows only made people feel ill,” the report by an East Riding Council review panel found.

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“2015,” it said, “saw some of the worst problems in the history of the site”, with 500 people complaining to YW and East Riding Council, and 1,300 signing a petition.

The report, which makes 13 recommendations and will be discussed by councillors next week, interviewed a number of people including Mr Stuart, who said he had been told by a YW director there would be a 20 per cent increase in the amount of effluent during the 2015 pea season.

It went on: “It was Mr Stuart’s understanding that the increase had actually been around 60 per cent and YW had failed to make contingency plans for this...He felt the company had not invested sufficiently and as a result residents had paid the price.”

Issued with an abatement order in August, the company has since said it will put in £30m improvements. It is currently installing an aeration system in the first of eight tanks on site, which should help the microbiology to function, when there are high loads coming in.

But the panel is cautious following past disappointments, and will reconvene twice next year for updates. It quoted YW chief executive Richard Flint who told them: “I cannot guarantee there will be no smells next year. That said, we will give it everything we have to make it better for residents. I wouldn’t like to live in the conditions they have had to live in.”

The panel also want a new permitting scheme to be bought in nationally, which would allow Ofwat to impose financial penalties on sewage works which transgress. It welcomed the £30m investment, but concluded: “It remains to be seen whether or not Yorkshire Water carry out the works promised and whether they will have the desired effect.”

Panel chair Coun John Dennis said they would keep a watching brief on the plant. He said he had been heartened by YW’s decision not to appeal the abatement notice - which carries the possibility of a fine up to £20,000.

He said: “We are more hopeful, perhaps, than we have been in the past.”

In a statement YW said they had prepared for the summer using an enhanced version of a plan the previous year which had been successful. However the loads coming in “consistently exceeded the design capacity of the site.”

It added: “This had a big impact on the biological treatment and resulted in odour problems as the microbiology was unable to treat the waste water. Based on the information available to us, and the lessons from previous years there was nothing further that we could have done to prepare the site given its current capacity.”