Debate

“Cautious optimism” at Yorkshire Water investment plans – Review Panel

Sequence Batch Reactor

A SPECIAL Review Panel convened to look at the plans that Yorkshire Water (YW) has to address odour issues at the Saltend Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) has published its report. There is reason to be cautiously optimistic that if the report’s recommendations are adopted, they could contribute towards ending the summer smells each year.

The report makes several key recommendations presented to East Riding of Yorkshire Councillors yesterday. Amongst these is a recommendation for the council to continue to monitor the situation at the WWTW to ensure that Yorkshire Water complies with the abatement notice served against it in August, and that the council take appropriate action if the nuisance is not resolved.

Panel-Review-Report-cover.jpgUnder the terms of the abatement notice Yorkshire Water must not let the nuisance recur; a breach of the abatement notice (effective until July 2016), could result in the council prosecuting YW through the Magistrates Court with imposed fines of up to £20,000. The Review Panel felt that the council should take the appropriate action if the statutory nuisance arose again in 2016.

The report received the written comments from East Riding Councillor Shaun Horton, portfolio holder for community involvement and local partnerships, who welcomed the moves to better understand why the odour problems were happening and what could be done to solve the problems. It is further recommended in the report that Hull City Council be asked to support the East Riding Council’s efforts to resolve the nuisance at the WWTW.

The report has recommended that Yorkshire Water needs to ‘clearly demonstrate’ that it understands ‘in detail’ the effluent flows into the WWTW and the troughs and peaks in discharges. YW should liaise more closely with its industrial customers to monitor effluent flows and to enable a system of pre-warnings of high loads to be established. These pre-warnings could be received by the council.

Yorkshire Water should provide the details of its proposed action plan and work programme (enabling it to abide by the abatement notice) to the council by the 1st February 2016. This should include work undertaken on investigations, feasibility studies and independent assessments that have been made that demonstrate that odour control proposals are robust. It has been further recommended that any future applications received by the East Riding Council for major developments at waste water treatment works, be submitted to expert technical consultants for advice.

Work on SBR 1

First steps had been taken to upgrade SBRs

Practical measures being taken at the WWTW site as part of the £30m improvement plan announced by YW, include improving processes at the plant, based on the recommendations made by industry specialists; this includes improving the aeration in the eight sequence batch reactors (SBRs) where the biological treatments of waste water takes place. This may include covering the SBRs which is being investigated, but thinking here is that if the aeration is working as planned, unpleasant odours are not produced so covers are not needed. YW are also hoping to trial new pre-treatment processes in time for next summer.

There are recommendations for national action in the report too with a call to raise the issue with Secretary of State and other interested parties to change legislation to enable greater powers of control over waste water treatment works.

In presenting the report to the meeting of the Environment and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee yesterday, Review Panel chair, Councillor John Dennis, expressed his appreciation for the positive way that Yorkshire Water have responded to the abatement notice (including their decision not to appeal against it).

Cllr John Dennis smallCllr. Dennis said that Yorkshire Water had announced that the company : “intended to fully grasp the Saltend nettle at long last and invest as much capital as is necessary to sort out the site’s problems – once and for all!

“Yorkshire Water provided the panel with a schedule of their intentions which is incorporated into the report. They appear confident that they can complete the short-term proposals in time for next summer, but my fear is they have an exceedingly tight timescale within which to implement these short-term improvements.

“It is pleasing to note however that they have commenced the project already. As this report was being finalised a batch of photographs arrived showing that indeed the first steps had been taken to upgrade the aeration to the 8 big round tanks at the back of the site – known as Sequence Batch Reactors.”

Members of the Review Panel are “cautiously optimistic” about the plans for investment. However, they are conscious of the fact that plans previously implemented by YW have not solved the issues. Therefore Cllr. Dennis has said that the Review Panel will meet again early in 2016 to check on progress and before next summer’s (peak load) pea season:

“Our task will not be complete until we are satisfied that all steps Yorkshire Water have announced have been completed and we can say ‘Goodbye to the Saltend Stench’ once and for all.”

The report conclusion page starts with a quote from the Chief Executive at Yorkshire Water, Richard Flint who had concluded his discussions with the Panel by stating that:

“We have the best minds working on the problem and a lot of investment. But 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 report itself concludes:

The Panel welcomed the news that Yorkshire Water was the invest £30m in the Saltend
site and acknowledged the fact that Yorkshire Water was developing short term plans to meet the requirements of the Abatement Notice and to reduce the levels of odour emanating from the Saltend site. The Panel felt, however, that close monitoring was required of the situation as past plans had not proved as effective as Yorkshire Water had claimed they would be. It was for that reason that the Panel felt it advisable to reconvene twice in 2016 to receive updates on the situation.

Yorkshire Water has said that they will carry out all of these actions and these will have the effect of avoiding the reoccurrence of the nuisance. However, it remains to be seen whether or not Yorkshire Water carry out the works promised and whether they will have the desired effect.

Protest at YWA significant ‘third-party’ is also watching what happens in the next few weeks: The residents who were involved in the campaign to highlight the odour issues this summer!

As Councillor Mike Bryan recognised when he addressed the Review Panel to give evidence:

“…Yorkshire Water had not been pushed enough until residents created the recent media campaign which had forced YW to address the issue.”

Alex Watts of the campaign group Stench at Saltend said last month in response to the news of £30m investment at the WWTW – and it is timely to be repeated today:

“I think it’s got to a stage where not only are they (YW) being forced to do something because of the abatement order, they have also been met with a force to be reckoned with ….OUR COMMUNITY! …There is still work to be done and we are as determined as ever to see it through to the end. Time will tell but Summer 2016 is looking to be sweeter smelling than it has in many years. In the meantime I’d like to say a massive ‘Well Done’ to our community for standing firm. Power to the people!”

Notes: The six members of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council Hull Waste Water Treatment Works (Saltend Site) Review Panel, were; Councillors –  John Dennis (chair), John Barrett, Geraldine Mathieson, Chris Matthews, Keith Moore and Nigel Wilkinson.

The Panel heard representations from 24 people including residents, campaigners, officers of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Graham Stuart MP, Public Health England and eleven senior officers from Yorkshire Water.

Download the report here: Hull Waste Water Treatment Works (Saltend Site) Review Panel Report

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