Yorkshire Water lost almost a billion litres of water from one leak. Should they be forced to pay up?
Plus, Christmas comes to Sheffield
Good morning readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
After our piece last month about sewage discharges into the River Don, Yorkshire Water contacted us to ask us to change the story. They said that while it was true that water was flowing out of one of their combined sewage overflows, it was from “an unmapped culvert” and therefore nothing to do with them. We now know that wasn’t true and that they have lost an astonishing amount of water as a result. Today, we ask whether they should be fined for allowing a billion litres of water to leak into the River Don from one burst main.
As well as that, we have some great pictures of the former castle site and the Sheffield Christmas markets, a gorgeous stone cottage near Damflask reservoir, and a brilliant shot from when Sheffield hosted the World Cup in 1966.
Catch up and coming up
“The pay’s crap — but you’ll have a few laughs.” For our weekend read I spoke to former Star reporter Neil Benson about his career in journalism. You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent two great newsletters out to our 929 paying members. The first was about my visit to the biggest ice skating event in the UK for years at iceSheffield in Attercliffe. And the second looked at Sheffield’s aim to become a carbon neutral “Net Zero” city by 2030 and what we need to do to make that happen. An extract from that first piece is below.
Part of the fun is the soundtrack to all of this. It understandably defaults to the dramatic to give the skaters something to work with. While I’m watching the men’s competition we’re treated to Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven and Prince’s Purple Rain. But there are also some more left-field choices. A tall, rangy skater from Japan skates to a bombastic big band number, while Graham Newberry, another British hopeful, opts for 1980s heavy metal.
This week we’ll send out two more including a piece by David Bocking about the visible migrations currently taking place in the skies above Sheffield, and another about a Sheffield academic accused of antisemitism. 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: It’s that time of year where we all start worrying about what to buy our nearest and dearest for Christmas. So it feels like an opportune moment for us to remind our readers that they can give the gift of good journalism this Christmas. You’ll also be supporting a small startup company and helping secure the future of independent local journalism. Thank you.
The big picture: Blank space 🏰
Thanks to oursteven on Instagram for letting us use this brilliant photo of the empty-looking Sheffield castle site from Exchange Place Studios. A consultation on the council’s proposals for the site has now finished. A planning application will be made in early 2023 and the project will be completed by spring 2024.
This week’s weather 🌦
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say the incessant conveyor belt of low pressure systems continues apace with further spells of rain or showers expected.
Monday 🌦️ A light but widespread frost to start, with bright spells giving way to cloud and rain by the afternoon. Highs of just 7°C.
Tuesday 🌦️ Cloud breaking to bright spells, but one or two showers are likely as well. Staying rather cold with highs of 8°C.
Wednesday ☔ Soon turning wet as an occluded front sweeps through, clearing during the afternoon. Breezy from the southwest with highs of 9°C.
Thursday 🌦️ A little milder with bright spells breaking through. Showers will likely affect the region from time to time, with rain late on and overnight. Highs of 10°C.
Friday 🌦️ Rain clears to a bright and breezy day with a few blustery showers about. Temperatures closer to normal with 10 or 11°C the high.
Outlook: Remaining unsettled and fairly mild through the weekend with further spells of rain or showers and brief drier and brighter interludes.
The big story: Yorkshire Water lost almost a billion litres of water from one leak. Should they be forced to pay up?
Top line: At the same time as imposing a hosepipe ban on customers, Yorkshire Water has allowed almost a billion litres of water to leak into the River Don from one burst main — despite being told 18 months ago that it was happening.
Background: As The Tribune reported last month, a combined sewage overflow or CSO in Sheffield city centre has been flowing constantly for at least 18 months, carrying both raw sewage and huge amounts of water into the River Don under Lady’s Bridge. Up until recently, Yorkshire Water claimed that the water was coming from “an unmapped culvert”, but last week engineers visited the site and found and fixed a major leak under Waingate.
An “insane” amount of water: When engineers from a contractor finally dug up the road on Friday night, they found a leak that was estimated to be flowing at “at least 20 litres a second”, possibly much more.
Even at the most conservative estimate, that means that almost a billion litres of water (945m) has leaked into the River Don over the last 18 months.
This would be the equivalent of filling the Olympic-sized pool at Ponds Forge 378 times over — and the leak may have been flowing for longer than that.
Pollution fines: During heavy rain, raw sewage has been pumped out of the CSO many times. However, because it is chlorinated, drinking water counts as environmental pollution. Earlier this year, the government increased the cap on fines that could be levied on water companies for discharging pollution to £250m. Last month, Anglian Water was fined £1.2m for two pollution incidents in Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire.
A toxic culture: Anthony Wood of the Sheaf and Porter Rivers Trust has been trying to get Yorkshire Water to fix the leak for 18 months. However, every step of the way he says he has been met with denial and resistance by the company. Numerous company staff have told him that there is a “toxic culture” at the firm with poor communication both internally and externally. He told The Tribune that waiting for Yorkshire Water to act had been “incredibly frustrating”.
Our take: When we published our story on this last month, Yorkshire Water told us that the water was not their responsibility. That has now been proved categorically wrong. It beggars belief that at a time of chronic shortages, the company has been allowing this much water to leak into the River Don. Water companies can only currently be fined for causing pollution. With demand for water only set to increase, financial penalties for leaks seem long overdue.
A spokesperson for Yorkshire Water told The Tribune:
We understand the interest in the operation of an overflow under Lady Bridge in Sheffield and are grateful to our customers for bringing concerns to us. Due to the location of this storm overflow, investigating and finding the cause of the water entering the Don has been complex. Our teams diverted all sewage flows away from the overflow in the summer, while investigations continued, and have now completed a repair on Waingate. We will continue to monitor the overflow following the repair and have commissioned an ecological survey of the river in the area to understand what impact, if any, there has been on the watercourse.
Home of the week 🏡
This gorgeous two-bedroom stone cottage in Bradfield has stunning views across the Loxley valley and is a short walk away from Damflask reservoir. It is on the market for £230,000.
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 🎧
Sound of pornography causes judge to halt court case ⚖️ The most senior judge at Sheffield Crown Court has limited the use of remote video hearings after a recent case in which pornography could be heard in court. The Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Jeremy Richardson KC, made the ruling after proceedings were repeatedly disrupted by noises coming from one of the advocates’ computers. The lawyer told the court that his computer had been hacked.
New book lifts the lid on “Bubble Car Murder” 🚨 Our weekend read was about one notorious set of murders from our region’s past, and now the Derbyshire Time have got another. Former Star journalist Alan Hurndall’s new book The Crooked Spire Killings looks at the case of Michael Copeland, a serial killer from Chesterfield who killed two gay men in the Derbyshire town in the 1960s, and another man while stationed with in army in Germany.
A taste of home 🥡 There are around 8,000 Chinese students in Sheffield, and dozens of restaurants set up to offer them a taste of home. Now Then asks seven visiting students about where they go for authentic Chinese food. They pick out Noodlesta on Brook Hill for noodles, Chinatown on London Road for Cantonese dim sum, China Red on The Moor for Sichuan and Oriental Taste Cuisine, also on The Moor, for meals from north-eastern China.
Lights! Bars! Markets! 🧑🎄
The Sheffield Christmas Markets opened on Friday, marking the start of the city’s first relatively Covid-free festive season since 2019. There are three Christmas bars in Sheffield city centre this year, including the Alpine Lodge at the Peace Gardens (pictured), as well as dozens of Christmas market cabins selling food, drink and crafts along Fargate, Pinstone Street and The Moor. And on Sunday evening, the city centre’s Christmas lights were formally turned on by Sheffield-born Lioness Ellie Roebuck. The markets and bars will be open 10am-6pm Sunday-Thursday and 10am-8pm Friday-Saturday until Christmas Eve.
Things to do 📆
Theatre 🎭 It’s the 1800s. It’s party time. Let the ruthless matchmaking begin. Direct from the West End where it won a Laurence Olivier Award, Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) is an audacious retelling of Jane Austen’s famous love story. Men, money and microphones are fought over in the irreverent but affectionate adaptation, where the stakes couldn’t be higher when it comes to romance. The show is on from Tuesday 22 until Saturday, 26 November.
Film 🍿 We’ve mentioned this a few times before but on Tuesday, 22 November at The Light cinema on The Moor, there is another chance to see A Film About Studio Electrophonique, a documentary about the Handsworth council house recording studio which launched the careers of The Human League, ABC and Pulp. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director James Taylor and The Human League/Heaven 17 founding member Martyn Ware.
Music 🎛️ Dance music pioneers The Orb visit The Leadmill on Thursday night (24 November) to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their seminal U.F.Orb album. The album marked the "the commercial and artistic peak of the ambient-house movement” and even gave the group an unlikely appearance on Top of the Pops to perform Blue Room (the radio edit rather than the full 40-minute version). Doors open at 7.30pm and tickets are priced £25.
1966 and all that ⚽
As you may be aware, the World Cup kicked off yesterday with hosts Qatar losing 2-0 to Ecuador, although more comment seems to have been on the ethics of the tournament taking place that the football so far. England start their campaign against Iran this afternoon.
Back in 1966, Sheffield hosted four World Cup games at Hillsborough, and was the base for the Swiss team during the tournament. In the above photo, Swiss player Rene Brodman leapfrogs his teammates in a training session at the University of Sheffield on 9 July.