EXCLUSIVE: Arsenic found in Harrogate’s sulphur waters

The Royal Pump Room Museum. 1603065c.
The Royal Pump Room Museum. 1603065c.

ARSENIC has been found in Harrogate’s famous “health-giving” sulphur water.

The water, available from special taps at the Royal Pump Room Museum, was cut off last month after it was judged “unwholesome”.

Documents obtained by the Harrogate Advertiser show that testing required by the EU revealed 25ug/l of arsenic in the water, two-and-a-half times the permitted level.

Following the tests in September last year, Harrogate Council drained and cleaned its reservoirs twice, before retesting the sulphur well, but found similar results.

Other elements detected in the water included aluminium, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, antimony and zinc.

Arsenic occurs naturally at very low levels in many groundwater sources. Based on World Health Organisation advice, the EU tightened its standards on acceptable levels of the chemical in 2004 to 10ug/l, five times lower than previously.

Harrogate Council’s assessment cites a possible risk to public health and the prospect of litigation if someone becomes ill from drinking it.

Last month, Harrogate historian Malcolm Neesam told the Advertiser: “The new EU legislation holds up two fingers to at least 400 years of continuous public right of access to the mineral wells of Harrogate, and makes a mockery of several centuries of British Parliamentary legislation, from the Act of 1770 which protected the public right of access to the sulphur water, to the 1985 Act, which continued that right.

“Generations of Harrogate’s greatest citizens would turn in their graves at the thought that foreign and unelected nosey-parkers could ever be in a position to ban the waters of England’s first and greatest spa.

“This latest piece of European impudence should be treated with the withering contempt it deserves.

“How many people have died from drinking the mineral waters? Not a single proven case in centuries of use.”

Officers have recommended restoring access to the water, while labelling it not fit for drinking.

A final decision is expected at tonight’s cabinet meeting.

For the full story, see Friday’s Harrogate Advertiser.