New inland bathing spot fails to meet water safety standards

After becoming the first section of river in the UK to be granted bathing water status, the River Wharfe in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, has failed to meet water safety standards, with recent data showing high levels of bacteria, the the I reported this week.

Samples revealed that levels of intestinal enterococci were 10 times higher than Environmental Agency safe limits, and e.coli bacteria almost 20 times higher.

Campaigners from the Ilkley Clean River Group say that the data only confirms what they already knew and the reason why they applied for bathing water status in the first place.

Conditions are worst at the site in wet weather when untreated sewage is discharged into the Wharfe from the Addingham pumping station two miles upstream. The water quality is always a risk to public health downstream of the designated site, which is still an area used for recreation by locals and visitors.

Now that it is a designated bathing water spot, four important actions have now been triggered at the site:

1. Regular testing of water quality by the Environment Agency to determine if it is safe to paddle, play and swim in.

2. Signage indicating if the water is clean enough to paddle, play or swim in.

3. A management plan for the river so that there are the facilities for the people who already visit to paddle swim and play.

4. A full investigation of the sources of pollution in the river, and the subsequent implementation of a solution to clean up the river.

A petition launched to ban water companies discharging raw sewage into waterways has so far reached 50,000 signatures. At 100,000 signatures, the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament.

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