Canoe site promise on users' safety

17th July 1998 at 01:00
In response to the article "Canoe site water made children ill" (TES, July 3) the English Sports Council would like to point out the following:

* The National Water Sports Centre is widely acknowledged as a world-class sporting facility. In 1997, 35 World and European Championship medals were brought back to this country by canoeists, rowers and water-skiers who regularly train at the centre.

* Three months ago the British Olympic Association presented the canoeing facilities with the coveted Olympic Accreditation.

* Since 1992, 277,785 people have used the canoe slalom course at the centre. Of those, only 158 (0.05 per cent of all users) have reported any ill-effects - the majority of these experienced mild stomach upsets after swallowing water. A wealth of clear and practical advice is available to all slalom course-users which will minimise the risk of later ill-effects.

* There has never been and still is not any requirement for the centre to log reports of illness. However, of our own volition, we do so and indeed encourage users of the facilities to report any ill-effects.These records are passed to public health and environmental health officers. Last November the sport's governing body, the British Canoe Union, asked all other canoe slalom courses in Britain to follow the lead set by us in making water-quality reports and analysis available to all interested parties.

* Within the past six weeks a computerised water-quality monitoring station has opened at the centre with the help of the Environment Agency.

The English Sports Council is proud of the National Water Sports Centre at Holme Pierrepont and has invested heavily in maintaining the world-class facilities.

Water-quality issues in relation to the canoe slalom course have always been addressed responsibly and proactively by the English Sports Council. We promise you that the safety of all users of the facilities is of paramount importance to us and we will continue to work with all the relevant authorities to ensure that any water-quality issues are addressed head-on.

John Davies. Director of National Centres. English Sports Council. 16 Upper Woburn Place. London WC1H

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