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UK: Saltburn's ochre stream set for clean up... A further £2 million is earmarked to clean-up the orange-stained beck

The Environment Agency has been working with the Coal Authority and the Saltburn Gill Action Group

A stream polluted by old ironstone mines in Saltburn is set to benefit from a multi-million pound clean-up scheme.

Saltburn Gill changed colour overnight on 18 May 1999 when it was polluted from a nearby mine that closed in the 1960s.

The pollution had a devastating effect on river life, turning the stream orange and depositing large amounts of iron oxide on the river bed and banks, up to the point to where it meets the Skelton Beck above Saltburn beach.

The Environment Agency has been working with the Coal Authority and the Saltburn Gill Action Group to design a scheme to treat the pollution and transform the stream back into a top quality coastal stream.

More than £700,000 has been spent so far and a further £2 million is earmarked to clean-up the orange-stained beck.

The money for the cleanup comes from a £10.5 million Defra fund to combat problems caused by abandoned metal mines across England.

Dominic Shepherd, Regional Water Quality Manager for the Environment Agency, said:
"The mine water will be treated to a high quality which will allow the stream to regenerate, bringing life back to the once-dead waters.

"The work will be carried out in two phases. First, water will be pumped from the old mine workings until the current discharges dry up, which could take a year. When the pumping has stabilised the groundwater levels, a treatment scheme will be constructed."
The new scheme will filter iron from the mine water before it enters the stream by using a series of ponds. It's the same tried-and-tested process that the Coal Authority uses at over 60 treatment schemes around Britain.

Dr Simon Reed, Director of Operations for the Coal Authority, said:
"I am delighted that the Coal Authority is working with the Environment Agency and Defra to deliver this project. We, together with our contractors and consultants, will bring our extensive experience in designing, building and operating mine water treatment schemes to bring very real environmental improvements to the community at Saltburn."
Jim Wingham, Chair of Saltburn Gill Action Group said:
"This represents a massive achievement for local people after eight years of working in partnership with all of the other bodies concerned to find a remedy for the pollution of Saltburn Gill. It represents a triumph for localism in its very best sense."
The scheme will help meet the requirements of the Water Framework Directive and will be built and operated by the Coal Authority under a permit issued by the Environment Agency.

Work is set to start on 10 December and take five months to complete.