‘Appalling’ Horror as UK’s first designated bathing site has ‘poor’ water quality

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Part of the River Wharfe in Ilkley was the only bathing site in Yorkshire to fail the water quality standards. In 2020, the river became the first in England to become a designated bathing spot.

That means its pollution levels are regularly monitored by the Environment Agency to ensure it is safe for swimming.

At the time, activists said they were “over the moon” at the news as many people visited the site for swimming and paddling.

However, the UK Environment Agency said new test results had exposed a variety of bacteria sources impacting water quality.

Polluting elements found in the river included human and animal DNA giving it a water quality rating of “poor”.

The Ilkley Clean River Group said: “These (results) unequivocally confirm local residents citizen science testing that it is not safe for people to paddle, play or swim after rainfall when sewage pollution exceeds safe limits.”

James Hitchcock tweeted: “The way we treat our rivers. The arteries that provide nature corridors while sequestering carbon, when in good health, is appalling.
“How did we get here?”

Anthony Glees tweeted: “We should be adhering to EU clean water standards. Brexit ‘deregulation’ will prove disastrous.”

John Wilson tweeted: “No surprise here.. River Wharfe in Ilkley. First bathing spot too dirty for a swim.”

Yorkshire Water had announced plans to spend £13million improving water quality in the Wharfe.

It said steps were needed to tackle additional sources of pollution.

Ben Roche, director of wastewater at Yorkshire Water said: “Our modelling indicates pollution is entering the watercourse from a variety of sources, including misconnections and agricultural land which the river and its tributaries run through.

“It is important that other landowners and stakeholders take action to ensure water quality is improved in the future, with the ultimate aim of improving the bathing water classification.”

The Environment Agency said water companies “must do more to reduce pollution incidents”.

It also asked the public to stop putting fats, oils, greases, wet wipes, cotton buds and other “unflushables” down the drain.

Martin Christmas, Environment Agency area environment manager for Yorkshire, said: “We are at the beginning of the journey at the site in Ilkley and we’re committed to working with the community, Yorkshire Water, local farmers, local authorities and other organisations to improve bathing water quality in the years to come.”

Interest in wild swimming has exploded across the UK in the last few years, as Britons looked to get back to nature.

A surge in staycation bookings during the pandemic contributed to its rise in popularity in the UK.

People are advised to check for safe spots before entering the water and never to swim alone.

One hazard sometimes found in lakes is blue-green algae which can give some people a rash.

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