Thousands of pieces of plastic gathered from Wakefield river

Thousands of pieces of plastic and litter have washed up in Stanley, after days of heavy rain caused the river to burst its banks.
Thousands of pieces of plastic and litter have washed up in Stanley, after days of heavy rain caused the river to burst its banks.

Thousands of pieces of plastic and litter have washed up in Stanley, after days of heavy rain caused the river to burst its banks.

Local groups are calling for action after the high water levels showed the extent of litter at Stanley Ferry trash screen, which protects the nearby aqueduct.

Paul Dainton with waste at the river in March of 2019. He says plastic has been a problem at the site for 10 years.

Paul Dainton with waste at the river in March of 2019. He says plastic has been a problem at the site for 10 years.

Paul Dainton, head of local community group RATS (Residents Against Toxic Scheme), said work needed to be done to prevent plastic and litter finding its way into the river.

He said: “While MPs and local politicians continue to claim action over climate change and plastic in the streams, rivers and oceans, we in Wakefield suffer one of the worst polluted rivers in the UK.

“Everybody is going on about the environment and plastics in the river and yet nobody will take responsibility. It just sickens me.

“Nobody is prepared to accept responsibility whatsoever.

“Never once in 10 years have they ever been to try to sort it out.

“They’ve done nothing and they’re still doing nothing.”

The group say they have photos of pollution at the site going back more than a decade, but have been unable to convince any official bodies to take responsibility.

The depth of the river at Stanley Ferry is not recorded, but measurements taken in Castleford showed that water levels more than doubled between Friday and Sunday, to a peak of 3.54 metres.

Sean McGinley, director for Yorkshire & NE at Canal & River Trust, who are responsible for the river, said: “Devastatingly, our canals and rivers are inadvertently acting as ‘plastics highways’, transporting rubbish from where we live out to sea.

“At Stanley Ferry we face a complex access issue to safely remove the litter accumulated behind the trash screen which protects the aqueduct.

“At the moment river flows are very fast and access to the site needs to be scheduled during the summer months, when water flow is often at is lowest.

“We have a significant project planned for summer 2021 to improve the structure to make maintenance of both the structure easier and the removal of litter and plastics.”