This week we have taken a look at our local watercourses in order to answer the question: How clean - or dirty - are Huddersfield’s rivers?

The question drew the most online votes in our #AskExaminer feature which allows readers to ask a question on any interesting local topic.

There are nine water bodies in the Colne and Holme catchment areas, which include various sections of those two rivers along with Wessenden Brook, New Mill Dike, Fenay Beck and Mag Brook.

The River Holme flows quietly through the Holme Valley

Under the Water Framework (European Union) Directive (WFD), each water body is given a classification - Bad, Poor, Moderate, Good and High - which cover water quality and other categories such as habitat.

The good news is that none of the local water bodies are classified Bad or Poor.

All nine are classified Moderate. And they won’t be granted Good status until phosphate levels are reduced.

The river Holme at Holmfirth

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A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “In the case of the Colne and Holme catchment, all nine water bodies contain levels of phosphate that prevent them from achieving a ‘Good’ status, although there may also be other factors that prevent them achieving ‘Good’).”

The problem for the Colne and Holme, like many rivers, is pollution from agricultural and sewage-effluent sources, such as pesticides, manure and fertilisers.

In the UK, around 60 per cent of nitrates in water bodies are estimated to have farming origins and around 75 per cent of polluting sediments come from farming.

Source of the River Colne
Source of the River Colne

A report by The UK Water Partnership and Global Food Security said: “The impact of these pollutants is that currently only 24 per cent of water bodies in England and 36 per cent of water bodies in Wales meet ‘good ecological status’, as defined by the WFD.

Avoiding the application of manures/fertiliser before predicted heavy rain would reduce river pollution, it said.

Despite the problems, those with long memories will recall the bad old days when rivers in industrial areas were filthy.

River Colne, West Slaithwaite, Huddersfield
River Colne, West Slaithwaite, Huddersfield

Peter Budd, a Huddersfield angler who has been fishing in the Colne and Holme for around 40 years, said textile industry processes had previously left local rivers badly polluted.

“In the last 20 years the boot has been put into polluters and they have also cleaned their own act up. In the 1960s and 1970s the rivers were horrendous.

“There are still (pollution) accidents now and again but they are not a constant threat. I would say the rivers have improved 90 per cent. The authorities should be given their due for doing the work.”

Mr Budd added: “The problem now is what farmers put on their land. In a downpour, it gets washed into the rivers.”

* Do you have a question for Ask Examiner? Email: andrew.robinson@trinitymirror.com

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