FEARS a ‘Dead Sea’ could be created off the coast have been raised if plans to pump untreated mine water into the sea go-ahead.
The Coal Authority plans to abstract mine water from an existing borehole at Whitburn Coastal Park.
It would then be discharged directly into the sea via a new 270ft outfall pipe drilled to a point below low tide.
The action is planned to prevent water from old workings at Whitburn Colliery, which closed in 1968, and neighbouring former collieries at Westoe and Monkwearmouth, reaching the aquifer.
Concerns have been raised by South Tyneside councillors that it could have the potential to pollute the drinking water of 30,000 residents in Sunderland and South Shields within a few years.
It has also been claimed contaminants from the old workings, such as salts and irons, could have an impact on sea and plant life.
David Shepherd, contract manager with the Coal Authority, said: “We are very confident that this proposal to put untreated mine waters into the sea will have no substantive difference. The effect will be limited to a very narrow zone.
“This discharge will require a permit from the Environment Agency. Stringent conditions will be laid down.”
Members heard if monitoring did show a problem “after one or two years” treatment of the mine water could take place, but fears raised this could be too late.