Going with the flow

Date: Tuesday 28th August 2018

MIXED messages emerge from Alston Moor, where a river clean-up scheme is being hailed as a saviour of one of the worst polluted stretches of water in England on one hand, and a dangerous experiment on the other.

County councillors this week gave the Coal Authority the go-ahead to create a mine water treatment centre on land between Blagill and Nentsberry. It is intended to remove the high concentration of dissolved heavy metals in the River Nent, which in turn is adding to the pollution in the River South Tyne.

This sounds good news for the environment, with those behind the treatment plans saying they will increase biodiversity in the river, particularly helping fish and invertebrates, and on nearby land.

People living nearby, however, say the news is not so good for them. They warn that the processes to be used to rid the water of cadmium, lead and zinc deposits could have detrimental effects on their health, especially from the “rotten eggs” smell generated by hydrogen sulphide.

The Coal Authority says there will be no impact on people’s health, but this does little to assuage residents’ fears that they are being treated as guinea pigs as the water-cleansing processes involved are largely untried.

Because of the location involved, this will be taking place largely away from the public gaze. It will be wonderful if the scheme is successful in restoring the health of major rivers, but that should not come at a cost to people who have been living in the vicinity for decades.