Environment agency looking into why Whitehaven harbour has turned brown

Credit: ITV Border
Only the Queen's dock is affected by the mysterious discolouration. Credit: ITV Border

Investigations are underway into why the water in part of Whitehaven harbour has turned a striking brown colour. 

The Harbour Commissioners say it's not thought to be harmful but are at a loss to know what's causing it and the sight of the brown water has become a major talking point in the town.

It's affecting just the Queen's Dock. Discoloured water is flowing into it from a culvert but why it's suddenly changed colour is, like the water, very unclear and tests are being carried out by the Environment Agency. 

  • John Baker, of the Whitehaven Harbour Commissioners, discusses the mystery discolourisation

"It could be a number of things. People have mentioned there are plenty of mine workings around the area," says the chief executive of Whitehaven Harbour Commissioners, John Baker.

"We've had intermittent heavy rainfall as well, that can sometimes wash things down into the harbour, but without finding the results of the samples that have been taken by the Environment Agency, it's hard to identify. It's a bit of a mystery."

The harbour is normally one of the biggest attractions of the town and its sudden change has got many people asking what's going on. 

"It's absolutely terrible," said one passer-by. "It's not very good for the environment is it? It's supposed to be blue and clear."

Another person told us: "We have had it before but normally just after heavy rain but after two or three days the sediment seems to sink and it clears up but this time it hasn't." 

The Environment Agency says there is no indication that the discolouration is caused by sewage pollution and United Utilities says it's not coming from its network. 

The Harbour Commissioners want to get an answer as soon as possible and try to stop whatever is causing the problem. 

"The general public, people walking around the harbour, want to enjoy the harbour and don't want to see murky water," says Mr Baker.

"We've got lots of boat owners in the marina at the moment. They obviously don't like the sediment on their boats, understandably so, so we just want to get it resolved, cleaned up and resolve the issue." 

How long it will continue to be like this is uncertain, but here at least it's looking like a very brown Christmas this year. 

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