Pollution watchdog plans legal action: Record level of dioxins in river near Coalite plant

A SMALL river in Derbyshire has the world's highest levels of dioxins, 27 times greater than the next most polluted watercourse.

The National Rivers Authority, the water pollution watchdog, is pinning the blame for the highly toxic and persistent contamination in the river Doe Lea on the nearby Coalite plant at Bolsover. Yesterday it said it was planning legal action against the company.

Laboratory tests on animals have shown that dioxins can cause skin and liver damage, tumours, and affect the immune system and fertility - all at extremely low concentrations. Once in the environment they break down very slowly.

The dioxin pollution, alleged to be from the Coalite plant which makes a range of chemicals from coal tar, is thought to extend at least 13 miles downstream into the river Rother and then on into the Don.

The rivers authority said there were no drinking water intakes downstream of the contamination, so there should be no threat to human health. But the high dioxin levels jeopardise the chances of rivers that have been been polluted for decades by industry and sewage ever making a reasonable recovery.

The dioxins are also likely to flow eventually down the Ouse and the Humber into the sea, albeit at much lower concentrations. They may already be reaching the North Sea.

The authority commissioned the Water Research Centre, of Swindon, Wiltshire, to test the effects of the contamination on carp. Scientists found that the livers of the fish kept in tanks with polluted sediment from the Doe Lea became enlarged after several months.

Upstream of Coalite Chemicals' outfall into the Doe Lea, where the river is about 12 feet wide, dioxin levels in the sediments are at two parts per million (ppm). Just below it the authority says they are 10,000 times higher, at 20,269 ppm.

A survey commissioned by the authority found the world's next worst contaminated watercourse was a Norwegian fjord, where a magnesium processing plant was to blame for levels of 749 ppm. In Britain the second highest level was 16 ppm in the River Alt in Lancashire.

Thirteen miles downstream of Coalite's outfall, in the Don in Rotherham, dioxin levels are still at 300 ppm. Ironically, the rivers authority and the pollution inspectorate believe the cause of the Doe Lea contamination is an anti-air pollution system in the chemical wastes incinerator at the Coalite Chemicals plant. A wet scrubber, which forced water through the incinerator exhaust gases, was meant to reduce the formation of dioxins and remove pollutants. Although this water was then treated, some of the chemicals appear to have flowed down a discharge pipe into the river. The incinerator has been closed for more than two years.

Gerard Morris, the authority's regional quality manager, said: 'Even in such tiny quantities, dioxins are powerfully polluting and the NRA is in the process of taking legal action against Coalite Chemicals to try to get the problem dealt with properly.'

But the best environmental option may be to leave the dioxin in the river. If the contaminated sediments were dredged out there would be serious problems in disposing of them safely, and dioxins might be spread in the process.

The authority wants to establish that Coalite is liable and make it pay for the costs of its investigation and survey work, which run to around pounds 100,000. Ken Shelton, the firm's environmental manager, said the contamination was 'a fairly insignificant environmental problem'.

Of 210 different types of dioxin, only 17 were harmful to life and the vast majority of the dioxins in the sediments were non-harmful.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
Paul McCartney backs the
people
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone