River pollution is national scandal as MPs highlight River Wharfe bacteria levels at Ilkley – The Yorkshire Post says

THE Yorkshire Post’s calls for a senior politician to oversee flooding and coastal towns clearly piqued Defra minister Rebecca Pow judging by the tone of her letter to this newspaper.

Bathers at the River Wharfe, Ilkley, last summer. Photo: Bruce Rollinson.
Bathers at the River Wharfe, Ilkley, last summer. Photo: Bruce Rollinson.

Yet, while she clearly has confidence in her abilities since being appointed Minister for Nature Recovery and the Domestic Environment in September 2019, today’s damning select committee report on river pollution strengthens the case for a political big-hitter to be appointed.

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Only 14 per cent of English rivers, according to the Environmental Audit Committee, meet good ecological status due to a dangerous “chemical cocktail” of pollution from agriculture, sewage, roads and single-use plastics. This also follows strong criticism of Yorkshire Water last summer after bacteria levels in the River Wharfe at Ilkley, a popular bathing spot, regularly break safety standards.

Rebecca Pow is the Floods Minister.

And while the reports suggests that the new Environment Act represents a turning of the political tide, MPs say it is “currently difficult to get a complete overview of the health of rivers due to outdated, underfunded and inadequate monitoring” exacerbated by Environment Agency budget cuts.

The report also says “a wide range of stakeholders must come together including the Government, regulators and water companies” to tackle this issue. Yet what chance of that when Environment Secretary George Eustice went back on his promise of February 2020 to convene a Yorkshire-wide flooding summit – and when all watercourses need to be considered in their entirety, whether it be flooding or pollution?

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Bathers at the River Wharfe, Ilkley, last summer. Photo: Bruce Rollinson.