More than 80km of River Wear polluted by zinc, cadmium and lead, report shows

More than 80km of rivers in Weardale, County Durham have been polluted by abandoned metal mines

new report published by the Coal Authority reveals how more than 80km of rivers in Weardale have been polluted by abandoned metal mines.

The findings show that metals such zinc, cadmium and lead have been found in the River Wear catchment in the eastern part of County Durham close to the Pennines.

Across England, metal mine pollution affects around 1,500km of rivers.


Map shows rivers in Weardale polluted by at least one metal, which includes cadmium, lead and zinc, due to abandoned metal mines. (Image: Environment Agency, Ordnance Survey)

Former mines, some of which were abandoned in the 1970s/80s have been identified as the source of this damaging pollution.

Pollution like this can cause damage to wildlife and the environment as well as even human health. Some of the smaller rivers and burns affected flow through Hamsterley Forest, home to lots of different species of animals.

Monitoring done by the Agency has identified several important sources which have caused this pollution. These are:

Cambokeels Mine water

This mine water contains metals including cadmium, zinc and iron which pollute up to 16km of the River Wear. Unless action is taken, this pollution will continue for hundreds of years.

The Cambokeels mine water discharge (image Coal Authority)

Rookhope Burn

This mine water contains metals including cadmium, zinc and iron which pollute up to 35km of the Rookhope Burn and River Wear. Unless action is taken, this pollution will continue for hundreds of years.

Killhope Burn

Metals impacting Killhope burn come from two mine water discharges and several areas of contaminated mine wastes. Unless action is taken, this pollution will continue for hundreds of years.

The Park Level mine water discharge at Killhope (image: Coal Authority)

Middlehope Burn

Middlehope Burn is polluted by cadmium, lead and zinc from abandoned mines.

The Sharnberry mine water

Source:  Chronicle Live 16th December 2021