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European Green Capital – Essen 2017 opens the first swimming area on a former industrial river in Europe

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ESSEN, GERMANY – For over forty years, the people of Essen were unable to go swimming in “their” River Ruhr. But now the wait has finally come to an end: numerous guests visited the official opening of the Baldeneysee swimming area. After the starting signal by Thomas Kufen, the mayor of the city of Essen, some enthusiastic visitors joined former swimming world and European champion Christian Keller in jumping into the cool waters for the first time. 

“It is an indescribable feeling for me as well as for the people of the city of Essen to be able to open the swimming area on the Ruhr and to be able to acknowledge the years of research and the commitment of the Ruhrverband, the city and its partners,” said Thomas Kufen, who opened the pilot swimming area on Tuesday together with Simone Raskob (Head of the Department of the Environment and Construction as well as project manager of European Green Capital – Essen 2017), Gerhard Odenkirchen (Departmental Manager for Water Management in the Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Nature and Consumer Protection in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia) and Prof. Dr. Norbert Jardin (Technical Director of the Ruhrverband).

The Ruhr illustrates the development of the city of Essen. From being a river on which only a few mills and skilled craft enterprises were located, the river became a transport route for coal and a disposal site for industrial waste water. As a result of millions of euros in investments in waste water removal since the 1980s, the Ruhr has become a blue and clean body of water. Under the project name “Safe Ruhr”, the general conditions for enabling safe and legally compliant swimming and an early warning system were developed in 2012, which takes into account the hygienic standards for bathing water within the EU. This system predicts fluctuations in water quality. It will only be necessary to close the swimming area after heavy rainfall events that necessitate discharges from the rainwater retention basins.

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