FIRE fighters came to the rescue when minewater threatened to pollute waterways in Cornwall.
They brought in an additional pump to help contain the water at Wheal Jane near Baldhu and reduce the risk of pollution in the nearby Carnon River and Fal estuary.
Following a week of heavy rain, site operator Veolia Water Solutions & Technologiestold the Environment Agency that the seven pumps used to transfer water to the minewater treatment plant were struggling to cope with rising water levels in the main mineshaft.
Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service provided a pump that was lowered into the mine and helped reduce the rate of rise of water, allowing the treatment plant to treat the water leaving the mine.
The seven existing pumps were removing 375 litres a second from the mineshaft and the Fire Service equipment boosted the volume to 450 litres a second.
“In our role as regulator, we are continuing to work with the Coal Authority and the site operator as well as with all our other partner organisations to explore ways of alleviating the possible escape of untreated water from Wheal Jane,” said Mark Pilcher for the agency.
The Fal estuary is a designated marine Special Area of Conservation with sensitive coral maerl and eel grass beds. The estuary also contains a number of designated shellfish beds for oysters and mussels.
In 1992 the abandoned and flooded Wheal Jane Mine caused a significant pollution when an adit burst. This discharged the content of the flooded mine to the Carnon River and into the Fal Estuary causing a very visible pollution of orange mine water as a result of high iron content.
The mine water from Wheal Jane mine is contaminated with a range of metals and this caused concern regarding the impacts on shellfish and other ecology in the Fal Estuary. As a result of the incident in 1992 a Government-funded treatment plant was commissioned which abstracts the contaminated mine water and treats it to prevent impacts on the estuary. This treatment plant continues to operate to protect the environment.
Who’s in charge?
Veolia operates, maintains and repairs the treatment plant on behalf of the Coal Authority which manages the site. As regulator, the Environment Agency is responsible for ensuring any processes or activities at the abandoned mine do not harm the environment.