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New signs give info on water quality at Wallingford

The signs are now up at Wallingford Beach after the site was granted Bathing Water status this week. The new status should ultimately result in a safer, less polluted environment at the site for swimmers, river users and wildlife.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has approved the application for Wallingford Beach to be designated as a bathing water area following an application by environmental charity Thames21, supported by South Oxfordshire District Council and Wallingford Town Council.

During the bathing season, from May to September, when hundreds of people use the river for activities such as swimming, canoeing and paddleboarding, the Environment Agency is now required to monitor the water quality and publicise the results. The new signs at the site give people access to this water quality data via a website. This allows river users to make informed decisions about using the river and any potential risks.

Now bathing water status has been awarded, the Environment Agency will investigate any pollution incidents identified through this monitoring and will work with Thames water and others to find ways to resolve them.

Cllr Freddie Van Mierlo, South Oxfordshire District Council cabinet member for climate change and nature recovery said: “This is a step in the right direction towards an improvement in water quality for all river users including our wildlife. I would like to thank Thames21 and all the residents and volunteers who helped support this bid including the hundreds who answered the survey set up by the government to gauge opinion on bathing water status for Wallingford.

“We hope the new status and information will give bathers the confidence to enjoy using the river this bathing season and that this is just the start of a greater recognition of inland waterways here in South Oxfordshire.”

Cllr Jo Robb, South Oxfordshire District Council’s Thames Champion, said: “This is great news for the area and for everyone who cares about our river.

“Wallingford beach has been a much-loved swimming spot for locals and visitors for generations. Now people will be armed with the facts about levels of harmful faecal bacteria, so they can make a more informed choice about whether or not to swim.

“Of course, Bathing Water Designation does not mean the river is clean, but it does give communities information on water quality and enables us to push polluters to clean up their act. We need to reclaim our rivers for people and nature, and this is a step in the right direction.”

The Mayor of Wallingford, Dan Beauchamp said on behalf of Wallingford Town Council: “We are proud to have been successful in attaining Bathing Water Status, which will mean that the water quality is monitored to the benefit of our community who use the river for swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking and more. Our river and beach area remain key to the beauty and enjoyment of our town for residents and visitors alike. This application was a great example of how councils and agencies can work together to achieve results and we hope this will prove to be a useful tool towards improving the water quality.”

Sarah Thornley, Catchment Partnership Development Officer at Thames21, said: “We are incredibly grateful to all the citizen scientists who helped us achieve this – we couldn’t have done it without them, as well as all the people, councils and organisations that supported our application.”