Sewer sleuths find source of Kendal river pollution

First published in News The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Assistant editor

SEWER sleuths have used ‘good old-fashioned detective work’ to find the source of a pollution mystery in Kendal’s River Kent.

A team of water company and environmental health officers has unearthed, and rectified, the source of a sewage leak which could have been going undetected for years.

Crime scene-style investigations began when South Lakeland District Council environmental protection officers spotted pollution in the river at the end of Lowther Street.

After it was confirmed there were no problems with the local sewer net-work, experts from United Utilities and the council were left scratching their heads.

“Things got worse after heavy rain in February,” said SLDC’s environmental protection officer Tom McCormick.

“A large amount of foul waste was washed into the River Kent, followed by almost daily pollution. “A combination of the size, and steepness, of the catchment, and the inter-mittent nature of the pollution made it extremely difficult to identify the cause.”

Drainage experts used an armoury of techniques to trace the source of the problem, including CCTV, trails of green dye, studied ancient plans, and probed Kendal’s murkiest recesses.

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Eventually, the problem was found half-a-mile away along a labyrinth of ancient drains and pipes.

The wastewater system of two homes in Fellside had wrongly been connected to a sewer, which should only have been carrying rainwater.

“Good old-fashioned detective work paid off,” said United Utilities field engineer Ken Shaw.

“Some of Kendal’s pipes are more than a century old. Our network performance technician Lee Acton went into dozens of yards and alleyways, lifting manholes and looking inside, including building a grille made out of chicken wire to see what we could catch.

“Because the main street is the historic highway from Glasgow to London, there are very few manholes on it, which made it even more complicated.

“When we eventually located the problem, the householders were completely unaware that anything had been wrong.

“Their homes were reconnected to the main foul sewer very quickly.”

SLDC and United Utilities will continue to monitor the situation and the river. The public can get advice on checking pipes at their own home by visiting www.united utilities.com/preventing- water-pollution-from-your- home, or by entering their postcode and taking part in an online survey at www.connectright.org.uk

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