Calls to save Herefordshire’s river Wye as ‘grey slime’ coats popular swimming spots

BATHING water status in appropriate stretches of the Wye and Lugg rivers is to be investigated by Herefordshire Council after a further call by councillors to improve the condition of county rivers.

The ‘excellent’ to ‘poor’ rating system under Bathing Water Status involves testing a single fixed point each week for E. Coli and intestinal enterococci, which are found in faecal matter in the water – both potentially harmful to human health.

While concerns were raised about encouraging people to swim in the rivers, councillors discussed the merits of using available legislation to improve water condition. The River Wharfe in Ilkley was the first UK river to be granted the status last year. The UK is lagging behind Europe, where in France 420 rivers having bathing water status, Poland 76 and Germany 32, a Herefordshire Council spokesperson said.

Both Ross Town Council and Herefordshire City Councillors have called for the water status as a further driver to improve water conditions in the River Wye. The move follows behind calls from county MPs to government to increase funding for agencies monitoring water conditions in the rivers.

Councillors also called for county MPs and neighbouring councils to support the River Action campaign for additional funding for the Environment Agency.

Coun Jeremy Milln (Green) supported Louis Stark (Lib Dem) by seconding the motion, saying after the meeting: “At Hereford such swimming has long tradition. On Bartonsham Meadow in my ward the city council erected a municipal bathing station before the Great War. It was a large veranda hut on stilts known as The Bassom and it was customary for local people to begin their day with a swim at 7am before going to work. Today, while there is paddling on hot days on the pebble ‘beach’ by Victoria Bridge and a few other places, few will venture far. The weed has gone and instead the pebbles are covered with a disagreeable grey slime.”

Hereford Times