Water taken from a flooded street in York was contaminated with elements potentially harmful to human health, lab tests revealed.
A sample of River Ouse floodwater was found to contain high levels of E.coli, elevated levels of ammonia and bacteria including faecal indicator organism concentrations
Results from lab tests commissioned by environmental group Round Our Way rated the water ‘poor’ according to Environment Agency bathing water standards, suggesting a risk to health.
The tests were conducted by consultants Oakshire Environmental.
“All of us want to feel safe at home and know kids are fine if they go out to play, but these results show the disgusting filth and germs people have been exposed to in recent floods,” said Roger Harding, director of Round Our Way.
“The weather climate change brings sadly means the UK is flooding more and more, which is leaving people exposed not just to property damage but also getting really ill.
“It shouldn’t need saying, but people should not have to put up with crap flowing into their streets and parks.
“We urgently need to see politicians better protecting people from floods and the climate change that is making them more likely.”
‘Film of muck’
Richard Potter runs the Perky Peacock café next to Lendal Bridge. He says that the flooding has a major impact on his business despite waters never reaching customer seating upstairs.
This winter access to the Perky Peacock has been flooded eight or nine times in the last three months, “costing us about £10,000 in lost revenue”.
Insurance is not a viable option for the café. On top of the loss of earnings is the regular hassle of “having to bleach and disinfect tables and chairs when the floodwaters recede”, to properly flush away any nasties.
Mr Potter said he would not be at all surprised if people do get sick from floodwater “as there is a film of muck such as on handrails by the river, which people touch”.
Dave Horn, head of operations for York Rescue Boat, says they are active during the floods
Funding for the charity comes from donations and grants, and dry suits alone cost up to £1,500 each and only last about three years, Dave says. “They keep us warm and dry but they also protect us from harmful bacteria and diseases like Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease).”
These latest lab tests underline the filthy state of York’s main river. YorkMix has repeatedly reported on the slicks of raw sewage that flow into the Ouse after heavy rainfall.
Earlier this month, Yorkshire Water finally pledged to invest £170K to improve the two storm overflows responsible for the problem.
There are currently three flood warnings active for York, and the city must prepare for more regular flooding as climate change makes itself felt. The Met Office says that 2023 was the second warmest year on record and that the UK saw 11% more rain than average.
Researchers at Bristol University recently estimated that in the UK, with every degree of regional warming, the intensity of extreme downpours can increase up to 15%.
Round Our Way is a not-for-profit working to focus the climate debate on people’s everyday experiences and concerns