Save Whitehaven Harbour

by Marianne Birkby in Whitehaven, Cumbria, United Kingdom

We did it
On 8th March 2024 we successfully raised £897 with 34 supporters in 28 days

Raising funds for investigations into pollution. Data will be collected from sources including dowsing and sediment tests in a laboratory.

by Marianne Birkby in Whitehaven, Cumbria, United Kingdom

Beautiful Harbour and Wildlife Being Polluted


I love Whitehaven with its Georgian architecture and beautiful sandstone harbour and have painted and drawn the wildlife and nearby clifftops there many times.  But the harbour and the marine life of the supposedly 'protected' Marine Conservation Zones of the Solway and Irish Sea are now being visibly polluted day in and day out. 

One Year On and the Pollution Continues

It is shocking that the authorities have dragged their feet for over a year now while the harbour fills with orange, acid waters from old mine workings.  The Coal Authority initially said the pollution was not coming from old mineworkings but when we asked marine expert Tim Deere-Jones he said that: “I’d be very confident in raising coal mining as the source of the pollution It would certainly be relevant to demand that the mine owners, Environment Agency, Nuclear Waste Services  et’ al’ get on the case and identify exactly where the contaminated water is coming from, boreholes? faults in the seabed geology? old mine workings on land?"

Avoiding the Answers By Not Asking the Questions?

Far from getting 'on the case' the authorities seem to be deliberately avoiding testing the polluted waters (only a few tests in over a year!) and there has been no sediment testing whatsoever. 

Local MP Up In Arms?  

The local MP is Trudy Harrison and if this was a harbour in the south you can bet the MP would have been agitating for this pollution to be national headline news.   But this is West Cumbria and the MP here is agitating for Great British Coal and Great British Nuclear - both of which want to mine mass voids under the Irish Sea near Whitehaven.  Drawing attention to the massive pollution that the existing honeycomb of old mines, under the land and sea, is causing is not in the interests of Coal or Nuclear.

HUGE Pollution

We only got sight of the results of the few tests the authorities have done through Freedom of Information requests.  We showed the results to Dr Marco Kaltofen a US based environmental scientist with 30 years experience in environmental, workplace and product safety investigations. He said: “no wonder it turned orange, those iron levels are H U G E. Cadmium, ammonia, and other metals (including nickel) are all elevated as well. They should have tested for arsenic and mercury too, especially given the elevated cadmium; but they did not. I strongly suggest having mercury and arsenic tested in the water. A separate sample of suspended solids should also be collected and tested for all of these parameters (plus radium, thorium and uranium) in addition to the water sample already done."

Short Term 

Mitigation in the short term may be to add some kind of filtration system to the mine water before it enters the harbour and we cannot understand why this mitigation has not already happened given that this pollution has been pouring into the harbour for over a year now.

The Minewater Impacted Rail Tunnel

In the long term polluted mine water is building up beneath the town of Whitehaven and even impacting the rail tunnel which runs for 1km beneath the town.  The trains have been slowed right down to 10 mph through the tunnel but this means the trains which include nuclear waste trains going to Sellafield are spending even longer in a mine water impacted tunnel.  The speed limit is no real solution to this terrible scenario. 

You can Help! 

We are looking for funding to find some answers as to what is happening and will freely share the findings with the authorities who have been tasked with finding a solution but who have for the past year managed to achieve nothing tangible.  

We will use all monies raised to:

Dowse for Answers

We have been in talks with dowsers who have already provided indications of answers as to the sources and flow of the mine water.  Dowsing has been used by industry and organisations such as Thames Water to find answers where all other solutions have failed.  Dowsers have carried out initial investigations remotely but need to come to Whitehaven to properly investigate what is happening.  Dowsing is often described as an art not a science so we will marry art and science.  

Scientific Tests

We will test sediment by collecting samples to send for analysis to an expert laboratory.  The analysis will include far wider parameters than those set by the authorities (Network Rail, Coal Authority, Environment Agency) who have been tasked with finding out what is happening in the harbour but who have so far failed to stop or even mitigate the ongoing pollution.   All the data collected as a result of fundraising will be shared with all the relevant authorities.

Please help find the answers so that the pollution in the harbour can be properly addressed and stopped.   

Save Whitehaven Harbour and the Marine Life!  




This project offers rewards in return for your donation. Please select a reward below.

£5 or more

2 of 5 claimed

Wildlife Postcards

A selection of three Postcards (size A6) featuring paintings of the wild creatures of the Whitehaven area - this is a real lucky dip - will you recieve a black headed gull, badger, deer, robin redbreast or another wild creatures frequenting Wild West Cumbria!?

£100 or more

0 of 1 claimed

Original Whitehaven Seal Charcoal Drawing

An original charcoal drawing of 'Stella' the seal sometimes seen lounging on the harbour in Whitehaven - here she is putting on a pose almost as though she is admiring her own reflection in the blue harbour water. Let Stella the seal see her reflection in the blue water once again! The charcoal drawing is A4 sized and mounted ready for framing.

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