Concerns for student rowers over ‘dangerous levels’ of bacteria found in York’s River Ouse

A sample taken from the river contained high levels of bacteria, including E. Coli and faecal matter


Public health concerns have been raised after flood water from York’s River Ouse was found to contain “dangerous levels” of bacteria, including E. Coli and faecal matter.

The River Ouse is used by staff and students within the University of York Rowing Club, who are also concerned about health implications of bacteria in the river.

Tests taken from Cumberland Street next to the river showed high levels of E. Coli, ammonia, and bacteria including human and animal waste, according to the environmental group Round Our Way. The sample was taken outside the Streamline Taxi’s building, next to The Lowther, a popular spot for students.

The University of York’s Director of Technology, Estates, and Facilities told the BBC: “University staff and students use the Rowing Club, so we’re very concerned about the public health implications”.

York’s famous River Ouse is no stranger to flooding, and having faced two storms this January many areas close to the river were left under water.

A water contamination test carried out at the start of this year by environmental group Round Our Way found flood water to contain dangerous levels of bacteria, so if you were thinking about taking a dip any time soon you might want to rethink that.

The sample was taken from Cumberland Street in York, a built up area leading to the river bank that is home to the York Dungeons and The Lowther, a bar popular with students.

The test revealed the quality of the sampled water to be considered “poor” according to Environment Agency standards. It also found a high concentration of E. Coli, elevated concentrations of Coliform, Ammonia, and bacteria including human and animal waste. Gross.

Theses elements are potentially harmful to human health. E. Coli, a bacteria commonly found in faeces, can cause a range of infections including urinary tract infection, cystitis (infection of the bladder), and intestinal infection.

Harvey Dowdy, director of technology, estates and facilities at the University of York, told the BBC: “The university staff and students use the rowing club so we’re very concerned about the public health implications.

“We’re also concerned about the biodiversity on the Ings and the need to do a proper clean-up.”

Yorkshire Water told the BBC that following recent storms, storm overflows, which are used to prevent sewers flooding homes and streets, did discharge into the River Ouse.

They added that they “have submitted plans to Ofwat for approval outlining a £1.3bn investment to reduce storm overflow discharges between 2025 and 2030.”

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