Raw sewage pollutes river after pipe bursts

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MORE THAN 100,000 gallons of raw sewage has poured into the river Aire near Bradford after one of three huge pre-war pipes connecting the city's sewage works burst.

It was depressingly familiar for Yorkshire Water, which runs Esholt Works. The four- foot-wide cast-iron pipes have burst five times since November. Ground movement, possibly exacerbated by the repair work itself, is thought to be responsible.

The National Rivers Authority, the Government's water pollution watchdog, reacted with some of the strongest public language in its five- year history. 'If this isn't proof of the need to spend money on the infrastructure of old and decrepit works, I don't know what is,' Roger Hyde, regional general manager, said.

'There is little doubt that we will prosecute Yorkshire Water in the light of these incidents. They have little of my sympathy . . . they must learn to spend some of their money on cleaning up our rivers.'

The latest burst happened on Monday night, as repairs on the other two pipes were nearing completion. Most of the sewage from more than 300,000 people was diverted into storm tanks overnight.

Yesterday morning one of the other pipes was brought back into service, but by then the storm tanks had overflowed into the already heavily polluted Aire.

The NRA wants the pipes replaced. Yorkshire Water argues that it will be more cost- effective to refurbish them using plastic inner pipe; it says that its customers and the industry's economic regulator Ofwat are urging it to slow the rise in bills.

The company said it had recently spent pounds 40m on improving sewage processing at the works - but not on the three pipes that connect Esholt's two halves. The rivers authority wants further expensive improvements at the sewage works because it is one of the river's major polluters, but Yorkshire Water is resisting.