The quick action of Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service in using specialist high volume pumps to remove millions of litres of contaminated water from a former mine has been praised by agencies as helping to prevent a potential pollution incident in one of the most environmentally sensitive estuaries in Cornwall.

At the end of last week [4-7 Dec] teams of four fire fighters from Cornwall used two high volume pumps at the former Wheal Jane mine to pump more than 60 million litres of contaminated water (the equivalent of 25 Olympic sized swimming pools) from the mine shafts to the treatment plant at the rate of 6,000 litres a minute. 

Cornwall is the first fire and rescue service in the country to successfully use a high volume pump at depths in excess of 50m. Lance Kennedy, the Council’s portfolio holder for Community Safety, Public Protection and Waste Management, is very proud of their achievement.

“Cornwall Council's Fire and Rescue Service has again demonstrated its ability to lead in new ways of protecting the environment and community” he said.  “The high volume pump has proved to be an excellent addition to our equipment during floods, fires and now environmental protection.  As always my thanks go to the staff involved –without their professionalism and dedication the machinery cannot operate".

Wheal Jane mine was closed in 1991 but following a incident in 1992, when contaminated water from the flooded mine spilled into the Carnon River and the Fal Estuary, a specialist plant was set up by the Environment Agency to treat the mine water before discharging it into the estuary.

The plant is now operated by Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies on behalf of the Coal Authority, funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Cornwall FRS was initially contacted by Veolia and the Coal Authority on 28 November to see if its high volume pump could be used to help reduce the levels of contaminated water in the mineshafts.  

Following agreement from the Council, the pump was successfully lowered into Shaft 2 later that evening.

Cornwall’s Chief Fire Officer & Director of Community Safety & Protection Des Tidbury said: “The Wheal Jane incident has proved to be a very demanding exercise over a prolonged period of time.  As usual our firefighters have proved, yet again, that they can deal with anything that is thrown at them.

“I’m also glad to report that our high volume pumps have proved to be very effective pieces of equipment”.

Both pumps have now been removed from the mine shafts at Wheal Jane with the CFRS one cleaned on the site and returned to normal use.

The operation at Wheal Jane has involved a wide range of partners, including the Environment Agency, Veolia, and the Coal Authority as well as Cornwall Council’s highways, environment, emergency management and fire and rescue services.

Posted 10/12/2012 by