Councillors Glen Sanderson and Nick Oliver in Lynemouth

Plans unveiled to tackle historic beach pollution

A major scheme is being planned to tackle historic pollution on a small stretch of the Northumberland coast.

After decades of colliery spoil tipping, the erosion of Lynemouth Bay has accelerated in recent years, revealing sites of historic waste previously buried within the cliffs.  

Over the last year, the council has been working to investigate the extent and makeup of this waste material, which has included detailed site investigation, sampling and laboratory testing. During this time, it’s also been monitoring the release of waste material onto the beach, and removing it as necessary.

Results of the testing have now shown that in some parts of the site the buried waste contains low levels of potentially harmful materials, although the site poses a very low risk to public health.

However, to further reassure people and tackle the underlying problem the council is implementing a range of measures to reduce risks even further.  

These include air monitoring, the temporary diversion of the England Coastal Path and continued pollution clearance. More signs encouraging people not to go onto the cliffs will be installed while volunteer groups who are carrying out litter picks and similar activities are advised to leave the clean ups to the council at this stage.

Councillor Glen Sanderson, Cabinet Member for Environment and Local Services, said: “It’s very unfortunate we have this pollution on our beautiful coastline but this is an historic legacy from our mining past, and we can’t allow this material just to wash into the sea as the cliffs are eroded.

“We’ve been working hard over the past year to understand exactly what we are dealing with and what the best solution is.

“Due to the material we’ve found it’s important people keep off the cliff tops and we’ve put extra signs up to this effect. We’ll also be carrying out regular monitoring and clean-ups with immediate effect.

“We’re also progressing a comprehensive solution which will extract all the rubbish and harmful materials, so that we can properly address this issue now and for the benefit of future generations who will see this stretch of coastline restored to its former glory.

“I want to reassure members of the public that we are determined to tackle this issue, and we have developed a comprehensive action plan to tackle this pollution for good.

As a longer term solution the council is considering a number of options, the preferred being excavation of the contaminated area, removal of the harmful material and replacing the rest of the earth to reform the dunes.

Initial estimates suggest this could cost in the region of £7.5m. Work to progress the scheme is being taken forward as quickly as possible for a scheme of this scale and complexity, with the detailed scheme to be designed and all necessary regulatory approvals and planning permissions sought and specialist contractors procured to enable works to progress in the spring of 2021. 

In the meantime the council will be undertaking additional clean-up visits on the beach to remove any waste materials that are washing out from the site.
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