Water quality improvement activists in a Suffolk River are planning to apply to make it the third in England with bathing water status. Why do they do this and what would it mean for those who enter the water there?
“It is not acceptable that the waste ends up in the river”
The Save the Deben environmental campaign group is behind the bid to obtain the status of designated bathing waters for the Deben River.
If successful, the Suffolk River would be the third in the country to be certified as safe for bathers.
Save the Deben’s application, due to be filed in October, comes after recent studies showed E. coli levels in the river were “way above” government guidelines for bathing water.
The Environment Agency claims to monitor E. coli in designated bathing waters, but the Deben River was not a designated site.
If that state were to change, it would give “peace of mind” to many river users, says Kevin Ward, who sails at Waldringfield.
Kesgrave’s father-of-two says he sailed for two full seasons and started because he felt it was “a waste not to use the wonderful river that is right on our doorstep.”
He goes with his 13-year-old son and says that children who surf “invariably end up playing a lot in the water”.
However, recent publicity about potential pollution and E. coli in the Deben “didn’t help lure any of us to the river.”
“Having the river designated as a bathing area should bring much more peace of mind thanks to the certainty of water quality through regular testing and the pressure it will inevitably exert on the parties potentially letting things flow into the river,” he said.
“It is not acceptable for waste of any kind to end up in the river, and while we shouldn’t take the river for granted, we should feel safe to use the river and allow our children to use the river without fear of getting sick.”
“It is horrible that a beautiful resource is polluted”
Natasha Sones says she loves encouraging others to swim or paddleboard for the mental and physical health benefits they bring.
“But it’s not easy when the water isn’t of the best quality,” says the 42-year-old, who has been swimming and paddleboarding regularly on the Deben for three years.
She says she was “very worried” when she heard about the E. coli levels in Deben and says she has friends who have seen the sewage or got sick after being in the water.
“It is truly horrifying to know that such a beautiful asset in our region is being polluted in this way,” says the mother of three.
Hollesley’s blogger says recognizing the river’s bathing water status would make users feel “much safer”.
“E. coli will be properly monitored and we will know it is being taken seriously,” he says.
‘Clean water without fear of getting sick’
Save the Deben was founded by Liberal Democrat County Councilor Caroline Page and local visual artist Ruth Leach, who both swim in the river.
They say they want all users to “enjoy a nice, clean environment where they can swim, sail, paddle and enjoy other activities like crab and paddling safely and without fear of getting sick.”
The group says the state of bathing water would increase pressure on water companies to improve water quality in the designated area by investing and improving existing infrastructure.
Currently, the only other two rivers with designated bathing water in the UK are the River Wharfe in Ilkley, Yorkshire, and the Wolvercote Mill in Port Meadow, Oxford.
According to government guidelines, the standard for E. coli in good coastal or inland bathing waters is less than 500 colony-forming units per 100ml of water.
Recent studies showed that there were several sites along the Deben that were “significantly” higher than standard and the Ufford Parish Council recently put up warning signs at Hawkswade Bridge, known locally as Ufford Hole, after levels were found. elevated.
The Environment Agency says that while it welcomes “the growing interest of people using rivers and open waters for recreation”, the current regulations for rivers and open waters in England protect wildlife and are not designed for the protection of human health.
River users will take part in a two-hour relay race from Felixstowe Ferry to Woodbridge Pier on 24 September as part of an event to raise awareness of and in support of the application of designated bathing water.
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