Minewater plan set to come under scrutiny

PUMPING OPTION ... the Wherry at Whitburn Coastal Park.
PUMPING OPTION ... the Wherry at Whitburn Coastal Park.

PROPOSALS to pump millions of gallons of minewater into the sea off South Tyneside will be decided next week.

In a bid to protect drinking water from contamination, the Coal Authority aims to set up a pumping station at the former Whitburn Colliery to reduce rising levels of minewater from undersea collieries which closed in the early 1990s.

If the water is allowed to continue rising, it is likely to result in contamination of an overlying aquifer which supplies drinking water to 30,000 residents in South Tyneside and Sunderland.

In a bid to avoid that, a scheme has been devised to use an existing borehole on the site of the former colliery to abstract minewater from coal workings 190 metres below ground.

The water would then be discharged directly into the sea through a new outfall pipe drilled to a point below the low tide at The Wherry, a man-made cove south of Souter Lighthouse.

It’s a plan which has raised the hackles of borough environmental campaigner Bob Latimer, who believes it is a danger to the health of future generations.

He is demanding the water is treated before it is discharged – as has been the case during similar schemes at Howdon and Dawdon in County Durham.

Next Tuesday, members of South Tyneside Council’s place select committee will be asked to agree a set of recommendations over the plans.

The committee chairman, Coun Nancy Maxwell, said members were keen to ensure the best scheme went ahead to protect drinking water.

She said: “The area’s long history of underground mining ended in the early 1990s.

“But this has led to a rise in water levels in the old mine workings where it picks up minerals, including salt and iron.

“The Coal Authority is proposing to prevent the water from reaching the aquifer by pumping the water from the old workings into the sea.

“We have taken a detailed look at the plans over many months as part of the statutory consultation process.

“We have also heard from interested parties and visited two sites where similar schemes have taken place for several years.

“Members are keen to see the best possible scheme to ensure that the drinking water supply remains secure in this area.

“However, it is important that the matter is addressed quickly with minimal impact on the environment.”

The meeting takes place at South Shields Town Hall from 10am.

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