Oxford Labour has today (12th April) welcomed the award of Designated Bathing Water Status to Wolvercote Mill Stream, north of Port Meadow, making it only the second stretch of river in the UK to achieve this status.
This is an important step towards providing a clean wild swimming spot in Oxford, and work will now take place with partners to monitor the water quality and investigate ways in which to address pollution.
It means the Labour led City Council has fulfilled a key commitment made in its manifesto a year ago. It comes after concerted campaigning by Labour Councillors Mary Clarkson and Linda Smith, and Labour’s candidate in Summertown, Mark Hull, as well as local volunteers and wild swimming enthusiasts.
The Labour led City Council will work in partnership with the Environment Agency, Thames Water, and the Oxford Rivers Project to ascertain the source of poor water quality in order to improve and maintain the status of a Bathing Water site.
Bathing Water standards are based on World Health Organisation research into the incidence of stomach upsets in people bathing in waters with different levels of bacteria. Preliminary data undertaken by the Oxford Rivers Project, funded jointly from the City Council, Thames Water, and Thames 21, suggests that currently no stretch of water in Oxford meets these standards.
Designated Bathing Water Status means the Environment Agency has a duty to test the water regularly for E. Coli and intestinal enterococci throughout the bathing water season (May to September). As the landowner, Oxford City Council will display signage displaying the water quality. This will be classified from Excellent to Poor.
If the quality is ‘poor’, an ‘advice against bathing’ symbol will be put up, although this does not mean that bathing is banned, or that the river is closed, but that bathing at the site is not advised.
The status of sites are reviewed annually, and if an improvement is not made within five years, the site will be de-designated.
Cllr. Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism, Oxford City Council said:
“I am delighted by this news today and want to thank everyone for their persistent campaigning to achieve this breakthrough. Oxford Labour promised we would fight for this and we have fulfilled this promise.
“This has been a real team effort, working with fellow Labour councillors, Labour candidates and local volunteers. A special thank you is due to Claire Robertson, the Oxford Rivers Project Officer, at the environmental charity Thames21, who has fought tirelessly to make this happen.
“We all know wild swimming has become increasingly popular in Oxford in recent years and it’s really grown since the start of the pandemic, but our rivers still carry pollution.
“Swimmers need to feel confident their attempts to keep fit won’t result in them becoming ill with any potential bugs from bacteria in the water. Being given bathing status will ensure the provision of information that will enable swimmers to make informed choices about whether or not to swim. It also sets a timeframe and a clear standard to meet, which we’ll be working with Thames Water and other partners to achieve.”
For Further information and making arrangements for interview please call Nigel Chapman, Oxford City Council Labour Group Media officer, on 07850 763708 or email email@example.com