Becky Malby, of the clean river campaign, explained: “People living in Ilkley expect our sewage to be treated, not dumped straight into the river every time it rains. We were shocked to find that our river was being used as an open sewer. We have stories of children getting sick as a result of dipping in the river. This is a disgrace. Bathing status is a critical step in cleaning up our river.”
“Local people and agencies will support the application and have worked hard to prove how much we need it, so we anticipate a positive outcome,” she added.
If the river is granted bathing water status- as many are in other countries such as France- it will be monitored in the same manner as coastal waters, which are classified either excellent, good, satisfactory or poor.
Environmental campaigners hope it will lead to many other rivers eventually gaining the designation, which they hope will pressure water companies and the government to boost investment into alternative solutions to discharging.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Friday put the proposal out to an eight-week consultation.
It confirmed if it was successful, the specified part of the river, between Ilkley Main Bridge and Beanlands Island, would be monitored between bathing season- from 15 May to 30 September- for bacteria harmful to human health.
Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “We protect people’s health at popular swimming spots across the country by requiring the water quality at those sites to be regularly monitored. At present, 93% of bathing waters in England have “good” or “excellent” water quality.
“I encourage local residents to take part in this consultation so we can have as many views as possible to inform our final decision.”