Tyne Rivers Trust has made it a principle to provide sound scientific knowledge to support the management of the catchment, and act as a reference point for other bodies whose work involves them with different aspects of the river and the river corridor.
Tyne Rivers Trust’s staff is a carefully selected team devoted to the health of the Tyne catchment. We are scientists with unique specialist knowledge of the catchment, its hydrology and biology and many of our projects are designed to inform other organisation’s future mitigation and management of the catchment.
TRT’s Diffuse Metals Project aims to map and control sources of heavy metal mining contaminants in the Tyne and Wear catchments. Mineral extraction in the North Pennines ore field began in Roman times and continued in some places right up until the last decade. This metal mining in the headwaters of the South Tyne, East and West Allen and Rookhope Burn has left a legacy of pollution. Water Framework Directive monitoring has highlighted harmful levels of Zinc and Cadmium in these watercourses and those downstream.
A continuing legacy of the mining era is the metal and mineral content left in the mines, which still make their way into rivers. These pollute through water discharges from mine adits (horizontal mine entrances), and from the erosion and movement of contaminated spoil heap material through river systems. These materials contain lead, zinc and cadmium, which are highly toxic in freshwater environments.
These problems are not confined to the upper reaches of our rivers – metal rich riverbed material moves on high flows and is deposited far from its source. Sediments in the Tyne estuary are contaminated with heavy metals which originated in the uplands, and metal-rich sediments can be found throughout the Tyne system. In fact, rare metal-tolerant plants thrive on floodplains which are regularly inundated by metal-rich sediments and are protected. Calaminarian Grasslands are protected SSSI features in our landscape. One of the big conundrums for the future is how to manage the pollution from abandoned mines to acceptable levels while also preserving species and habitats protected under environmental and archaeological legislation.
We hope to use our tried and tested green engineering methods (e.g. tree material, willow spiling, and other forms of assisted natural recovery) along with sediment traps and drainage controls at eroding sites which contribute metal rich sediments to our rivers. At the moment we do not have the funding to begin remediation, but given the large-scale impact metal-rich sediments have on our rivers we would like to target this for future work.
We are the Tyne co-ordinator of the national Riverfly Partnership’s monitoring initiative. We have been training and supporting volunteers to record the health of their river via the RiverFly Monitoring programme since 2007. We have run 6 full day workshops to date and now have an excellent band of volunteers gathering data on pollution sensitive invertebrates in the river and tributaries throughout the Tyne catchment.
This is an extremely effective method of identifying potential issues and pollution events.The Riverfly collaboration was brought together in 2002 as a Natural History Museum / Natural England partnership.By 2004 the Riverfly Conference demonstrated overwhelming support for the monitoring initiative. It was endorsed by the Salmon and Trout Association leading to pilot phase collaboration with the Environment Agency and the associated publication being developed with the Field Studies Council.
In 2006 a test version was trialled and by March 2007 the Anglers Monitoring Initiative had been launched nationally.Our River Watch groups often find basic knowledge and equipment really useful. It’s always exciting to discover ‘What dwells beneath!’