Continuing concerns over mine-water discharge into sea

The current treatment ponds and discharge point at Lynemouth. Picture from Google
The current treatment ponds and discharge point at Lynemouth. Picture from Google

There are continuing concerns about the discharge of mine-water into the sea on the Northumberland coast – not least due to the lack of public consultation.

A report to the latest quarterly meeting of the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA) provided the latest news on an amended scheme to pump mine-water from Ellington into the sea.

In 2013, the Coal Authority proposed discharge works at Ellington Mine to prevent overflowing mine water from contaminating the Morpeth aquifer.

NIFCA responded to the consultation at the time recognising the need for the works, but questioning whether the sea was the best place to discharge the waste water.

However, the scheme went ahead as proposed with the mine-water passing through two treatment ponds on its way into the sea.

Earlier this year, the authority proposed increasing the amount of mine water pumped out as the previous scheme was not sufficient to prevent contamination of the aquifer, with concerns again raised, including about the ‘unsightly discharge’ and other environmental issues affecting the River Lyne.

At a meeting of the River Lyne Sub-Group earlier this month attended by officers from the Coal Authority and a number of other stakeholders, details were provided about the next phase, for which the building works are set to start soon.

This involves further treatment of the iron-rich water, which will be oxygenated as it flows over a cascade in order to oxidise the dissolved iron which then becomes insoluble. The water then slowly passes through five lagoons and a drying bed where the iron falls from suspension.

Coun Liz Dunn, the county councillor for the area, who was at the meeting, said: “The Coal Authority were quite taken aback at the interest in it and the lack of consultation about it.

“They have agreed to come out – I know it’s a fait accompli and has been approved – but they should come out and take the flack for it.”

Another NIFCA attendee, Steve Lowe, added: “The Coal Authority were surprised about the amount of flack they took, but that’s because there’s been no consultation on this.”

He highlighted that the authority could not say whether the appropriate assessments had been carried out for the discharge entering two marine protected areas (MPAs), although they were going to get back with information.

NIFCA chief executive Mike Hardy said: “Our concern dates back to 2013 when it started and we have stressed the need to protect the seas as much as possible. It’s very important that we continue to monitor it as much as we can.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service