Nenthead Mine Water Treatment Scheme

Closes 31 Dec 2024

Opened 31 Dec 2021


Welcome to our information pages for the Nenthead Mine Water Treatment Scheme.

Site pages

  1. Scheme Overview (please continue reading below)
  2. Pollution of rivers by metals in the Tyne catchment
  3. Preventing pollution in the Nent and South Tyne
  4. Diffuse pollution interventions
  5. How a treatment scheme works
  6. How we chose the site
  7. Timeline
  8. Supporting Reports and Surveys
  9. FAQs
  10. Latest Newsletter updates

Scheme Overview

The Environment Agency and Coal Authority are proposing to build a treatment scheme to remove the metals in the water discharging from the Caplecleugh and Rampgill Levels before they get into the river, improving the environment for people and wildlife.

The River Nent is the most metal polluted river in northern England. This pollution by cadmium, lead and zinc comes from several different sources and impacts aquatic wildlife, water and sediment quality for up to 60km along the River South Tyne and into the Tyne Estuary.

Monitoring by the Environment Agency shows that the water draining from the Caplecleugh and Rampgill Levels (abandoned mine water drainage tunnels or adits), are two of the most significant sources of pollution along the River Nent. By treating these two mine water discharges, we can remove between 30 and 75% of the zinc found in the River Nent at Alston.

Following discussions with the public and other stakeholders, proposals are being developed for a mine water treatment scheme to be built on the former Nenthead mine site adjacent to the Handsome Mea reservoir. For more information about how we chose this site, please see here.

The proposal is to capture the mine water from the Caplecleugh and Rampgill Levels near the Nenthead mines car park, and pump it up to treatment ponds near to Handsome Mea reservoir in an underground pipeline. Once the metals have been removed, the treated water will be returned to the River Nent.



Latest Update 

We are continuing to work on the proposed mine water treatment scheme at Nenthead that aims to improve water quality in up to 60km of polluted rivers. We have revised our timetable and are now expecting to be ready to submit a planning application in late 2023 or early 2024, once final designs have been developed.  

The proposed scheme layout has recently been updated to show the treatment ponds slightly further south on the former Nenthead Mine site, and to reflect that we now have a preferred location for the pumping station within Nenthead car park. 

The updated plans are available here. We have also produced some initial visualisations of the pumping station to help demonstrate the scale and proposed siting of the pumping station. 

During 2022 we have also: 

  • Redone ecological surveys in line with the seasons experienced in Nenthead – a summary of the report is available here

  • Installed a new weather station on the former Nenthead Mine site since August 2022. 

  • Clarified our site selection process and provided a clearer narrative on how the Nenthead Mine site was identified as our preferred site. 

We last held a community drop-in event on 21 November 2022. The information we brought to the drop-in session is available here. We also held an independently facilitated question and answer session and a record of this is available here.

We will continue to share information about the proposals and listen to comments from local residents and other stakeholders.  

Please also see our 'Frequently Asked Questions' webpage or PDF document here, visit our supporting documents page, or get in touch with us if you have any further questions.

For more information about the proposed Nenthead Minewater Treatment Scheme, please contact


  • Businesses
  • Statutory organisations
  • Members of the public
  • Elected representatives, including MPs
  • Local councils


  • Water quality
  • Habitats and wildlife