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‘Unacceptable’ Whitehaven Harbour Water Remains Discoloured

Almost a year since the water in a West Cumbrian harbour first turned orange investigations are still going on to find out why.

Six months ago Network Rail started technical surveys on land above a railway tunnel in the town.

Discoloured water started entering Whitehaven Harbour from a culvert in Queens Dock at the end of last year.

The harbour’s chief executive said it was “completely unacceptable” the water remained polluted, damaging business.

Samples have already been taken by Coal Authority from water running into the harbour and along Bransty Beck.

The colour of the water is known to get worse gets after periods of heavy rainfall.

Whitehaven is within six miles of the Lake District and has 400 berths in the marina for yachts.

Whitehaven Harbour Commissioners held a meeting last week with Cumberland Council about what it has called “the dire situation” of the rust-coloured water.

It said it was “reassured” and is working with the authority to bring all the agencies together “to ensure remedial action is finally taken”.

Deanne Shallcross, chief executive of Whitehaven Harbour Commissioners (WHC), said: “Ourselves and Whitehaven Marina Limited (WML) remain in liaison with those agencies who have the power to stop this constant discharge of polluted water into Whitehaven Harbour.

“It is completely unacceptable that we’re almost at a year since the issue first came to light,” she said.

She added that she is frustrated that neither WHC nor WML can control what is discharged through the culvert into Queen’s Dock.

“This is impacting negatively on our businesses, the wider harbour estate and the community as a whole, not just financial but also reputational damage. It needs to be stopped.”

In April Network Rail commissioned a hydrogeological survey of land above a railway tunnel and in its immediate surrounding area on the Cumbrian Coast line.

Although the tunnel is not the source of the water, it is hoped the survey could provide better information about how polluted water could be prevented from reaching the harbour.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Sampling and non-intrusive investigations are underway to find the source of the discolouration.

“Once these have been completed and analysed, we will share the results with all relevant parties to plan and implement next steps.”

Network Rail is one of a number of organisations that have been working with Whitehaven Harbour Commissioners on this, including the Environment Agency, Coal Authority and the former Copeland Borough Council which has been superseded by Cumberland County Council.

Initial results from the Environment Agency, which took samples from Queens Dock in December 2022 and February 2023, showed “increased metals in the water”.

Source : BBC