Weather hampers Morecambe Bay pipe clearing

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WINDY weather is hampering efforts to clear sand which is still partially-blocking the end of an outfall pipe in Morecambe Bay.

Permission for the work have been granted after negotiations between United Utilities wastewater engineers, marine organisations, environmental experts, landowners and other utilities but diving crews have remained on land because of storms lashing the coast until at least the end of the week.

Lee Bryce, of United Utilities said: “Everything is now set to remove the remainder of the sand which is blocking the end of our pipe but the weather has taken a turn for the worse.

“Fortunately the temporary fix we put in place which partially unblocked the pipe is still working, so apart from some overflows of very dilute storm sewage into the bay, which is largely what you would expect in this sort of rain, there have not been any emergency releases of raw sewage since November 11.”

Precautions such as notices for those who use the bay remain in place until the pipe is completely cleared. This includes the temporary closure of mussel beds on the advice of the Food Standards Agency and Cefas.

The stricken pipe is used to take Morecambe’s treated wastewater out to sea. A shift of sand on the sea bed buried the end at the end of October, completely blocking it.

“As soon as the weather clears, we expect the operation to unblock the pipe will take about 12 days. It’s a top priority for us and we are keen to get it done as quickly as possible,” said Lee.

United Utilities say there is no indication that there are any wider health risks to people using the shore and beaches in Morecambe Bay, although normal hygiene precautions such as hand washing are being advised.