Concerns have been raised after it was revealed that untreated waste water was discharged to watercourses in the North York Moors National Park on 1,746 different occasions throughout 2021.

Since the passing of the Environment Act 2021, water companies in England are obliged to provide annual figures relating to untreated water being released into watercourses.

Many waste water systems in the UK are designed as 'combined' systems, meaning that rainwater is collected in sewers alongside waste water from homes and businesses.

When there's prolonged rainfall or icemelt these combined systems reach capacity and water companies are permitted to discharge the diluted waste water at points along their network - usually directly into rivers or the sea.

Conservationists have raised concerns after Yorkshire Water's discharge figures for 2021 revealed that untreated water was discharged to watercourses in the North York Moors national park for 11,587 overs across 1,746 different occasions.

Adrian Leaman, Chair of the North Yorkshire Moors Association - a charity which works works to safeguard the landscapes, biodiversity and cultural heritage of the Moors - was shocked that the overhaul of polluting sewage treatment works in the National Park is not being prioritised.

“Not only does this contravene the statutory purposes of National Parks to protect and conserve the wildlife and biodiversity in our National Park, but as many rivers and coastal streams have their headwaters in the National Park then any pollution there impacts on the whole length of the watercourse,” he said.

A spokesperson from Yorkshire Water said: “We completely understand our customers’ passion and interest in river quality in our region and know that overflows happen more than we or they would like.

"It is an issue that must be addressed by us and other organisations working together. We’ve announced an additional £180m investment in storm overflows, taking our total investment in river water quality in the five years to 2025 to almost £1bn, indicating our commitment to improving water quality in Yorkshire’s rivers. Darlington and Stockton Times: Cod Beck Reservoir in North York Moors National ParkCod Beck Reservoir in North York Moors National Park (Image: Jon Lovett/PA)

“We continue to support the government’s Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan and are keen to go beyond the regulatory measures with our customers' support.”

Meanwhile, Briony Fox, Director of Conservation and Climate Change at the North York Moors National Park Authority, said: “We are aware of instances of pollution of the water courses in the North York Moors National Park.

"We work closely with Yorkshire Water, the Environment Agency and landowners to address the causes, deal with the impacts and actively explore opportunities to reduce pollution incidents in the future.

"The Management Plan for the National Park includes an objective to achieve ‘Good’ status for all water bodies in the North York Moors by 2027 and we are working with our partners to put plans in place to deliver this.”

Olly Foster, owner of the Egton Estate and spokesperson for riparian interests along the River Esk, said: “The unique population of Freshwater Pearl Mussels in the Esk has not bred successfully for decades.

"Poorer quality water due to increased pollution from untreated sewage and detergents used in washing machines and dishwashers is not helping their recovery. The mussels rely on migratory salmon and trout for a key part of their life-cycle and they too are struggling due to pollution.”