This article originally appeared on VICE US.
In the latest version of Lonely Planet’s guide to England, the city of Bradford is recommended for its National Media Museum, for its annual Bradford Festival, and for its many (many, many) curry restaurants. The West Yorkshire city has more than 200 curry-focused restaurants, recently launched its own Curry Awards, and has been named the country’s Curry Capital for six straight years. It also might be the only place in England where curry is categorized not just as an entree, but also as an environmental pollutant.
The Telegraph and Argus reports that the Friends of Bradford’s Becks, a group dedicated to keeping the Beck river system clean, discovered that “frequent curry pollution” was a serious recurring issue, one that even prompted an investigation by the country’s Environment Agency. According to a report recently published by the Friends, the drainage from one food preparation facility was enough to turn the river bright yellow, and give the water a pretty unmistakable scent.
Although drowning in a legit river of curry sounds like the best possible cause of death, the city opted to try to clean this one up. “With the curry incident it wasn’t malicious whatsoever, it was just a case of that business’s washing-up facilities draining into the beck,” Rob Hellawell, a pollution hunter hired by Friends of Bradford’s Becks, said. “Every time they washed up, the curry got in there. After the weekend it was terrible.”
Hellawell told The Mirror that the facility has since changed its plumbing system, which will hopefully keep Bradford Beck from looking like last night’s leftovers. Regardless, the curry is still an upgrade from the way the Beck looked in the mid-19th century, when booming Bradford was considered to be the wool capital of the world.
“By 1840, as a fetid repository for raw sewage and industrial effluent, the beck was used as a sewer to carry away Bradford’s industrial and domestic waste,” the Friends write. “Offal, raw sewage and industrial effluent from mills and workshops filled the beck.” As a result of citizens who were still dependent on it as a water system — and of cholera and typhoid outbreak — the average Bradford resident lived to the ripe old age of…18.
The ecological status of the beck is still considered to be “poor,” but hopefully the Friends’ continued work will eventually nurture it back to health. At the very least, maybe it’ll stay curry-free.