Algal blooms on Windermere led to the postponement of the Great North Swim

Algal blooms on Windermere led to the postponement of the Great North Swim

A conservation charity said the use of chemicals in washing detergents may be partly responsible for the growth of poisonous algae that led to the postponement of a major wild-swimming event.

Thousands of swimmers and spectators have been left disappointed and out of pocket by the last-minute postponement of The Great North Swim on Windermere.

Up to 9,000 competitors, including elite swimmers and Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham, were due to take part in the event tomorrow and Sunday. 15,000 spectators who would have turned out to watch the event have seen their plans thwarted.

The event, which many swimmers use as a charity fundraiser, was postponed yesterday because of the growth of blue-green algae on the lake.

Nurture Lakeland, which runs the Love Your Lakes campaign, warned that phosphates in household chemicals encourage the algae growth.

Ruth Kirk of Nurture Lakeland said, “Many people are not aware that phosphates used in laundry and dishwashing detergents get washed into the lakes, leading to the high levels of this nutrient which cause the growth of toxic blue-green algae.

“Whilst the Love Your Lakes campaign is currently raising awareness of the issues around Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite Lake, this is a problem which affects many lakes in Cumbria – including, sadly, Windermere.

“Our lakes are a hugely important resource for fun, recreation and tourism as well as being special nature habitats. The good news is that it’s really very simple for us all to do our little bit to help keep the lakes we love healthy and accessible for everyone.”

She said that whilst phosphate gets into water from a variety of sources including agriculture and sewage, switching to one of the phosphate-free products on the market can reduce the amount of nutrient entering the lakes.

Ms Kirk added, “There is a wealth of information available on our website including a downloadable fact-sheet with advice for swimmers and a list of phosphate-free products you can buy. By switching to phosphate-free we can help reduce the likelihood that water-based recreational events will have to be curtailed in the future.”

Organisers of The Great North Swim have said they will email entrants next Tuesday with an update, but the postponement has left many out of pocket after they booked accommodation and travel to the event.