Discover more from Sheffield Tribune
Exclusive: Yorkshire Water 'discharged sewage into River Don at Lady’s Bridge for months’
Plus, the Barnsley lad who discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Sheffield’s relationship with its rivers is a complicated one. They are the reason people first settled here in the middle ages, but during the industrial revolution they became dangerously polluted. Over the last 40 years there have been efforts to clean up our rivers and return them to their pristine, natural state. However, according to activists, over the last few years there have been worrying signs it is slipping back once again. Today, we look at why.
As well as that, we have a beautiful home in Nethergreen, the return of an iconic noughties girl band and a funny letter from the Daily Telegraph.
Catch up and coming up
Thanks to everyone who read, liked and shared our weekend read about the box-office contest to be the Labour candidate for Sheffield Central. You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent out two great newsletters to our 853 paying subscribers. The first was about the surprising connections between a historic Sheffield type foundry and the strange world of internet memes. And the second was about the long-standing links between Sheffield and the Ukrainian city of Donetsk. An extract from that second piece is below.
The 1986 delegation was Peter Price’s second visit to Donetsk, and tea wasn’t the only drink on the menu. As well as the underground meeting, he also remembers the vodka-soaked toasts. “They went on forever,” he tells me. “Everyone was expected to propose one.” As well as this making it difficult to think of enough topics to devote a toast to, it also made standing up afterwards equally hard. Price tells me [South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner] Alan Billings used to surreptitiously dispose of his drinks in plant pots.
This week we’ll send out two more including one focusing on the brilliant work of a veteran Sheffield photographer and another about a bitter row in the Sheffield Green Party over transgender rights. To get both of those and help fund a new way of doing journalism in Sheffield focused on serving readers rather than advertisers, please consider subscribing using the button below. It costs just £1.34 a week if you pay upfront for a year.
Editor’s note: I just wanted to offer a warm welcome to all the new members who joined over the weekend. After we published our piece about the Labour selection for Sheffield Central, and another membership appeal on Sunday, The Tribune got more than 30 new subscribers — and we are now well on the way to our next major target of 1,000 members. Thank you.
The big picture: Fantastic Mister Fox 🦊
The annual Parkwood Springs lantern parade took place on Saturday, bringing hundreds of people to the beautiful, wild space near the centre of Sheffield. A huge selection of lanterns were paraded through the woodland before dance group Mister Fox performed a spectacular and eerie fire show as night fell. To read our piece about the fascinating history of the area, click here.
This week’s weather ⛅️
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say low pressure stays fixed to the west of the UK, occasionally throwing rain-laden weather fronts across the country. Mild throughout.
Monday 🌦️ A breezy day from the south with dry and bright periods. Scattered hit-and-miss showers with highs of 15C.
Tuesday ⛅ A day of dry and bright weather with many places staying dry. Pleasant in the sun, with cloud and rain overnight. Highs of 15C.
Wednesday 🌦️ Mild and windy with cloud and some blustery rain or showers. Some brightness, with highs of 17C.
Thursday 🌦️ Staying changeable with further showers and some drier and brighter periods. Still mild and breezy with highs of 16C.
Friday 🌦️ Little change with further fronts bringing the risk of rain or showers. Fleeting brightness in between with highs of 16C. No frosts.
Outlook: Little change for Saturday, but high pressure could build in to end the weekend from the south. Staying very mild.
Exclusive: Yorkshire Water ‘discharged sewage into River Don at Lady’s Bridge for months’
Top line: Yorkshire Water is spilling large amounts of sewage into a Sheffield river — but six months after being informed of the problem, the company has still done nothing to stop it.
What’s going on? During heavy rain, water companies like Yorkshire Water are permitted to allow sewage and industrial wastewater to discharge into rivers along Victorian sewers known as combined sewer overflows (CSOs).
However, the CSO under Lady’s Bridge in Sheffield city centre has been observed discharging constantly into the River Don for months.
Yorkshire Water say they have no record of discharges taking place in the last two years — but that’s because their monitoring equipment is broken.
What’s in the water? When water from the overflow was tested in a laboratory, the results came back showing high levels of human waste. As well as sewage rags and visible solids, the water contained high levels of caffeine, very high levels of fipronil sulfone (an insecticide most commonly used to deflea pets, but which is also harmful to aquatic ecosystems and bees) and several antibiotics.
Sinkhole fears: Experts say the fact that the overflow is constantly discharging also makes it likely there is a burst water main under Waingate. This means that despite a chronic shortage, huge amounts of water are being wasted before passing through a sewage overflow and contaminating the river. It also means a dangerous sinkhole could develop at any moment.
Not our problem: Activists say that the attitude of Yorkshire Water up until now has been uncooperative and defensive. The company has variously claimed that there is no problem at the site or that if there is, it is someone else’s fault. A six month deadline imposed on them by the Environment Agency in April to address the problem has now expired.
Environmental damage: As well as being dangerous to the health of people who use the river like Blue Loop cleaners, kayakers and anglers, the polluted water is also harmful to wildlife.
After centuries of neglect, over the last 40 years, the River Don has once again become a place where wildlife can thrive.
In 2020 the river saw its first successful salmon spawn in 200 years — but there are now fears it could be deteriorating again.
Citizen science: A group of concerned residents in Sheffield have now set up a “citizen science” project to monitor the health of local rivers. These so-called “River Rangers” will monitor the combined sewer overflows and test water quality. However, they say if their warnings are not heeded, they could take legal action. Simon Ogden, a trustee of both Sheaf and Porter Rivers Trust and Upper Don Trail, told The Tribune:
People in Sheffield want to work with Yorkshire Water to assist them in making our waterways safer and healthier for wildlife and residents alike. However, if they continue to be unwilling to communicate honestly and seriously then we will press the Environment Agency to enforce upon them or possibly take direct legal action against them.
A spokesperson for Yorkshire Water said: “This summer we undertook work to divert sewage flows away from Waingate CSO to Blackburn Meadows wastewater treatment works, preventing any sewage flowing to the CSO. The flow that can currently be seen is believed to be from an unmapped culvert, which is not owned or managed by Yorkshire Water. In the interest of protecting the environment, we are undertaking investigations into the root cause of the infiltration.”
Home of the week 🏡
This characterful stone three-bedroom mid-terrace in Nethergreen is beautifully presented throughout and has an attic bathroom including a skylight. It is on the market for £335,000.
Tribune Tips: If you want to tell us about a story or give us some information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity. Get in touch.
Our media picks 🎧
Why is everyone moving to Sheffield right now? 🚚 Fresh from naming Kelham Island one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world, Time Out magazine now report on the increasing trend of Londoners moving to Sheffield. Journalist Ashleigh Arnott moved up here with her husband recently after visiting the Steel City just once. “The house prices, the people and the green space persuaded me to leave London behind,” she reveals. “And I’m not alone.”
How a boy from Barnsley helped unearth a pharaoh's tomb ⚱️ A new exhibition at Barnsley Museum sheds fresh light on one of history’s most enduring mysteries. The 1922 unearthing of Tutankhamun’s tomb is one of the most celebrated digs in archaeological history. But, as this BBC piece shows, Howard Carter’s discovery owes much to the work of Barnsley-born artist Ernest Harold Jones, who until now has been written out of the history books.
‘Through mark-making, I find that my work becomes a meditation’ 🎨 Work by the street artist Enso can be seen around the city, most notably outside the Rutland Arms on Brown Street or Dryad Works in Neepsend. In this interview in Now Then, Enso talks about the inspiration behind his work and why he finds Sheffield suits his style of mural-making. The piece also includes some great examples of Enso’s large-scale work and tattoo designs.
Out of this world 👽
Yesterday’s wet weather failed to dampen spirits for Sheffield’s annual Out of this World sci-fi, magic and horror festival. Now in its eighth year, the festival brought hundreds of visitors to the city centre, many of them in amazing “cos-play” outfits including Star Wars, Marvel superheroes, Doctor Who and Ghostbusters. Thanks, as always, to the Steel City Snapper for these great photos.
Things to do 📆
Music 🎤 Having reclaimed the right to use their original name in 2019, Sugababes return to Sheffield’s O2 Academy on Tuesday, 25 October as part of a 17-date tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their first album One Touch. As Our Favourite Places point out, the girl group have gone through “almost as many lineup changes as The Fall” — but are now back with their classic original roster of Mutya Buena, Siobhán Donaghy and Keisha Buchanan.
Development 🏗️ A half-day conference about new development in Sheffield will take place on Tuesday, 25 October at Sheffield Hallam University’s Owen Building. At the event, Henry Boot will talk about their Block H and Kangaroo Works developments in the Heart of the City project while Sheffield Hallam University will talk about their award-winning Atrium Project. The session will take place from 8.30am-1.30pm and is priced £20 to non-CIOB members.
Learn 🦴 PubHD is a monthly event where doctoral students talk about their research in the relaxed atmosphere of a Sheffield pub. This month’s event, which takes place at the Old Queen’s Head on Wednesday, 26 October at 7.30pm, speakers will focus on harnessing energy from wave power and the science behind using 3D-printed materials to treat bone defects. The talks are free but attendees are asked to donate £1 to help fund future events.
‘Cold rage’ 🤬
Daily Telegraph political editor Ben Riley-Smith tweeted out an amusing letter from a reader in Sheffield which was printed in his newspaper on Saturday. “What’s the mood in the Tory grassroots,” he asked, talking about the attitude of rank and file Conservative members to the continued upheaval in Westminster. “Cold rage, if the letters page is anything to go by.”