The scenic Yorkshire River popular with wild swimmers is England’s ‘most polluted bathing spot’



The River Wharfe at Ilkley has been named “England’s most polluted bathing site”.

Recent data shows that the river is regularly inundated with high levels of dangerous bacteria.

The region, which can sometimes see up to 1,000 people a day, became the first river in England to earn a bathing water designation in 2020.

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But this summer’s measurements show bacterial pollution at two test sites on the river much higher than what the Environment Agency says is safe for swimming.

Levels of intestinal enterococci, a bacterium that indicates human or animal feces can be found in water, were almost ten times higher than the Environment Agency’s safe limits.

Levels of e.coli, a group of organisms that also indicate fecal contamination, were on average nearly 20 times higher than the safe threshold.

Last year, the Ilkley Clean River Campaign (ICRC) tested the water of the Wharfe River for pollutants, from the source to where it meets the Ouse near Selby.

Quay of the River Ilkley

This is part of an ongoing fight to make the Ilkley stretch of river that is popular with swimmers a designated swimming river.

The ICRC said it found dangerous levels of E. coli in the water near the iron bridge at Ilkley – the stretch usually inundated with swimmers. The site has at times been so popular that police have been called to the scene of lockdown rallies.

Wharfe’s status as a destination for bathing water means that the Environment Agency now regularly takes water samples to assess whether action is needed to reduce bacteria levels, helping to ensure that the water is cleaner and safer for swimmers, and improves water quality.

Surveillance began in May.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Residents of Ilkley and the surrounding area have shown their immense appreciation for the River Wharfe as an asset to be enjoyed and protected. water site.

“Unfortunately we all know that water quality will not change overnight. It will take time and we need farmers and businesses to commit to making the necessary improvements. I am happy to see Yorkshire Water moving forward with new proposals to help move things in the right direction. “

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The Environment Agency has been monitoring bathing sites on the coast and on some lakes since the 1990s, and during this period water quality has improved significantly.

In 2019, 98.3% of bathing water in England met the minimum standard for bathing water and for the first time since the relevant regulations came into force, more than 70% of bathing water met the standard the highest.

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