Raw sewage pumped into Bristol harbour 200m from where wild swimming pilot will be held this week

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The council maintains that the stretch of water is ‘Good’ to ‘Excellent’ bathing quality

Raw sewage was discharged from storm overflows less than 200 metres from where Bristol City Council’s wild swimming pilot is set to be held.

The project launches on Saturday (April 29) with a section of Bristol’s harbour, close to Baltic Wharf, set to be used as a swimming lane for participants. Sewage seeped into the harbour for hundreds of hours from several storm overflows throughout 2022 according to data released by conservation experts, the Rivers Trust. Swimming in the water will still set you back £7 an hour - a cost the council described as ‘really competitive for what it is’ back in March during a test swim by married couple David and Karen Quartermain.

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Two overflows located at Hotwells Road discharged sewage a combined 15 times just a few hundred feet from where swimmers are due to diving into the water, next week. Bristol City Council insists the Baltic Wharf stretch has some of the cleanest water in the harbour and will be tested weekly while the wild swimming pilot is underway.

A spokesperson for the authority told BristolWorld: “Baltic Wharf is one of the best locations in the harbour for bathing water quality, which for the majority of the time ranges from Good to Excellent.

“We have been working with partners like Wessex Water to check the water quality and look at how we can put in place additional testing to ensure it is safe before allowing people into the water as part of the pilot. In advance of the swimming sessions, we will test the water weekly, on the Wednesday and Friday before, to ensure it meets sufficient bathing water standards.”

The council also added that it would be ‘misleading’ to use the term ‘spills’ for some of the storm overflows seeping sewage into the harbour as Wessex Water, responsible for Bristol’s overflows, has a licence to discharge at certain points in the harbour at Combined Sewer Overflows.

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A Wessex Water spokesperson said: “Storm overflow discharges in the Wessex Water region significantly reduced in 2022, and this is down to dry weather as well as our £3 million a month investment in improvement schemes.

“In Bristol, we’re increasing the sewage treatment capacity at our largest water recycling centre in Avonmouth so we can deal with more rainwater. But clearly, there’s more to do and we’re committed to continuing to reduce the frequency of discharges, starting with those that operate most frequently or have any environmental impact.

“We’re also planning to go even further and, if approved by our regulators, will invest more than £9 million per month from 2025.”

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