Wastewater treatment services

We don't just supply Yorkshire's homes with clean water, we also take it away.

Beer barrels

What is the sewerage system?

It’s the system of pipes used to collect and carry rainwater, waste water and trade waste away from properties to a Waste Water Treatment Works or other place for disposal.

There are 2 basic types of system:

- Combined systems take both rainwater and used waste water from sinks and baths, and waste from toilets.

- Separate systems put rainwater through a surface water system; sometimes leading to a stream, river or soakaway; and used water through a separate foul system connected to a Waste Water Treatment Works or other means of disposal.

Are there different types of domestic drainage pipes?

Yes, there are 3 types:

• Private drains serving just one property and located within the property boundary. There may also on occasions be private sewers within the property boundary.

• Lateral drains serving one property but located outside the property boundary.

• Public sewers serving more than one property.

All types could be laid in private land, footpaths, public roads, gardens or public open spaces. All drains and sewers can be designed for combined or separate systems.

As the Sewerage Undertaker, we own and maintain public sewers. They’re normally displayed on public sewer maps, which you can see at our Head Office at Western House, Halifax Road, Bradford, or at the appropriate Local Authority office.

In the case of private drains, the owners of the drain are responsible. If you experience a problem with a private drain or sewer and require help, you should contact a plumber or drainage contractor or check your insurance policy, if you have one.

How do we collect wastewater?

We've a network of around 20,000 miles of underground pipes, collecting waste water from Yorkshire's homes, liquid waste from industry, and rainwater that falls on roofs and roads.

After you've used your water it enters a waste pipe, travels into a drain, then into a sewer pipe that joins others to form something we call a trunk sewer. Eventually it reaches one of our 631 waste water treatment works across the region.

Surface water

Surface water includes the water that falls on your roof, path, driveway and garden then enters the public sewers system via gutters and drains. It’s removed this way to protect your property from water damage.

How do we treat wastewater?

We operate over 600 Waste Water Treatment Works, designed to treat expected sewage volumes and meet the standards set by the Environment Agency. In inland areas, we usually carry out treatment in several stages and then return the treated waste water to a watercourse. In coastal areas, the treatment includes ultraviolet disinfection before we return the treated wastewater to the sea.

How do you deal with environmental problems?

As far as possible, we try to limit environmental problems such as flies, odour and noise; and if we’re building a new works, we take into account the possible effects on people living nearby. We’re also carrying out a programme of improvements to provide extra waste water treatment capacity, to comply with conditions set by the Environment Agency and meet river quality and coastal water quality objectives.

We’ve contributed significantly to improvements in river and coastal water quality. Waste Water Treatment Works are now working to a higher standard than ever before. Waste water is rigorously treated prior to being discharged, and this has helped to improve the state of our rivers, watercourses and coastal waters.

How is the quality of the treatment monitored?

We undertake sampling of the quality of our discharges in agreement with the Environment Agency and results are transferred to them and are recorded in a register available for public inspection.

What happens to the sewage ‘sludge’?

There are strict rules about how we can dispose of the biosolids known as sewage sludge, which are a by-product of the wastewater treatment process.

Where possible, we recycle it by turning it into a useable substance such as soil enhancer, topsoil substitute or even house bricks.

Some sewage sludge is spread on agricultural land. This is only permitted if both the sewage sludge and the soil meet requirements laid down in the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations.

Due to its industrial nature some sewage sludge is incinerated. A high proportion of the resulting ash is recycled but some has to be put into landfill sites.

How do I report a problem relating to your waste water treatment works?

If you experience a problem relating to our waste water works, including nuisance or inconvenience caused by noise, odours or flies, or a problem relating to any other part of our sewerage system, please go to our contact us page to get in touch.

Releasing water back into the environment

It's important for our environment that the water we use is returned safely to the rivers and the sea. Many of our rivers are cleaner now than at any time in the last 100 years. This is because we've been hard at work updating and modernising many of our waste water treatment plants in the region. We also played a massive part in improving Yorkshire's coastal bathing waters with a multimillion-pound investment in our waste water treatment in these areas.

Find out below what work we're doing to help improve Yorkshire's environment.

Reducing ammonia from our Waste Water Treatment Works

In the last few years a piece of European legislation known as the Water Framework Directive has started driving European countries to further improve their rivers, to a new, higher standard they class as having "good ecological status".

This directive sets limits on the ammonia levels that can be discharged from our sites in order to meet a water quality standard for ammonia in a river (formerly included in the Freshwater Fish Directive).

We’ve made considerable investment at many of our sites to reduce the ammonia discharged rivers across Yorkshire.


Aldwarke waste water treatment works serves the vast majority of Rotherham's population - over 100,000 people. It treats 26,000m3 of waste water from local homes and businesses every day.

We’ve invested £7.7 million at our Aldwarke site, a significant proportion of which has gone towards reducing the level of ammonia discharged from the site from 10 milligrams per litre to 3 milligrams per litre. By doing this we'll ensure a much higher quality of water is put back into the Don, which will create a healthier river environment for people, fish and wildlife.

This work will ensure compliance with the Water Framework Directive and move our rivers one step closer to having “good ecological status”.

Waste Water Treatment Works Updates

Beverley Waste Water Treatment Works

Our waste water treatment works at Beverley is located on the eastern side of the town, off Waterside Road. The works treats waste water from around 38,000 people in Beverley and the surrounding area. It also takes waste water from local businesses and septic tanks, treating the sewage to a very high standard before safely discharging the treated water into the River Hull.

We've been on site at Beverley Waste Water Treatment Works throughout most of 2015 carrying out investigation and preparatory work for our major investment in the site. As a result of the work we’ve been doing on site we have improved the planned scheme for the site are now looking to go even further with improvements on site than our original proposals.

As well as carrying out the work to address odours we will be carrying out additional improvements which will improve the quality of the water that we return to the river. Once all the investment is complete the site will have been completely rebuilt.

The first phase of our work on site will focus on reducing the levels of odour from the site and includes the construction of a new inlet works and new primary treatment tanks. This will modernise the equipment and reduce the risk of the failures that have caused odours in the past. This work is due to be completed in 2017 as originally planned.

The additional work to improve other areas of the site will need to take place following the completion of the inlet works and new primary tanks due to the availability of land on our site. Currently we expect this second phase of work to be complete by 2021.

Blackburn Meadows Waste Water Treatment Works

Blackburn Meadows waste water treatment works is one of the largest sewage works in Yorkshire. This huge 78 acre site is located on Alsing Road, next to Meadowhall shopping centre and treats waste water from a population equivalent to over 800,000 people from the Sheffield area, including a number of key industrial sites.

In 2012 we started an £78 million scheme at Blackburn Meadows which was an investment in new treatment processes. Through this investment we will be improving the water quality in the River Don and preparing the site to cope with future predicted increases in Yorkshire's population.

What are we doing?

Several improvements are being made at Blackburn Meadows. These include:

• A new inlet works, to improve waste removal at the start of the process through screening of large items such as grit and debris

• New primary tanks, used to settle solids out of the waste

• A new activated sludge plant (ASP), where oxygen and bacteria react to draw out impurities from the waste

• Improvements to the storm overflow system, which holds additional volumes of waste water during periods of heavy rainfall, reducing the risk of flooding and pollution incidents in the vicinity of the works.

• These impurities, removed from waste water at multiple stages of the process, are referred to as sludge. We're installing a new Sludge Digestion Plant as a preferred alternative to using the incinerator for waste disposal.

Why are we doing it?

Water industry investment has transformed the water quality of our rivers over the last 25 years and key migratory fish have returned to Yorkshire's rivers. For instance, sea trout have reached Shipley on the Aire and Salmon are regularly seen at Sprotborough on the Don.

In the last few years a piece of European legislation known as the Water Framework Directive has started driving European countries to further improve their rivers, to a new, higher standard they class as having "good ecological status".

Yorkshire Water is one of several companies collaborating to drive the identification and delivery of improvements to Yorkshire's rivers. We are taking many different approaches to doing this, ranging from investment in waste water treatment works such as at Blackburn Meadows to working with partner organisations to build fish passes, such as that seen at Rodley Nature Reserve off the river Aire. We're also a key member of the Don Pilot, a partnership project aimed at investigating and reporting on ways to co-ordinate catchment planning to improve the quality of our rivers.

These improvement works will also allow us to respond to predicted population increases in the region. Earlier this year we published our Blueprint for Yorkshire , which details a predicted increase of 855,000 people living in Yorkshire over the next 25 years. Improving our waste water treatment works allows us to prepare for this increase.

Benefits of the scheme


Our £78 million investment into Blackburn Meadows waste water treatment works will improve the water quality being discharged into the River Don and therefore enable Yorkshire's freshwater wildlife to thrive downstream of the works.

We are doing this by reducing the level of ammonia discharged from the site down to a quarter of its current level, and through improvements to the storm overflow system. This tank essentially stores waste water when the sewers can't cope, for instance during extreme weather events such as severe rainfall, preventing sewage and run off from the roads entering the river.

Further environmental benefits will be delivered through our new Sludge Digestion Plant, which disposes of sludge by breaking it down to generate bio-gas and a compost product which can be recycled back to land. The bio-gas can be used further to produce electricity to power the site and make our operations more sustainable in the long term.

The energy we are generating at Blackburn Meadows forms part of our energy and carbon reinvestment programme, which means we have now increased our self generation to 18%.

Customer Service

Our customers will be able to enjoy the improved water quality in the Don and will benefit from more effective and efficient treatment of waste water.


The investment we're making will improve the operations of our site. By generating more of our own power on site, we're also less susceptible to increases in energy charges from external suppliers.


This work will ensure compliance with the Water Framework Directive.

Progress to date

Our contractors, ETM, have been on site since March 2012, and completed a series of improvements to our storm overflow system and Don Valley pumping station later the same year. This work means that the site is better able to cope during times of heavy rainfall and that sewage related debris is better screened out before being discharged to the river.

The remainder of the improvements have now been constructed and the first stage of switching over to the new works happened in February 2014. The second stage followed shortly after, meaning the quality of water discharged into the River Don will be vastly improved.

The new sludge digesters have been built and are treating all the sludge currently produced at Blackburn Meadows. The resulting gas production is used to generate electricity and is contributing to our performance commitment to generate 12% of our own electricity needs.

You can see a time-lapse video of how our primary tanks and activated sludge plant and the new digesters were constructed below.

The main improvements to the works finished in late 2015. We will be testing and optimising the site to ensure it operates effectively and efficiently until March 2016, when the improvements will be complete.