The removal of a 2.5 kilometre plastic liner from the River Keekle near Whitehaven has been completed.
West Cumbria Rivers Trust’s £1.5 million project to remove the liner and restore the riverbed to a natural state is thought to be the largest river restoration of its kind in the UK. The restored river will provide habitat for a range of freshwater wildlife.
The last of the plastic was removed recently and the processing of the plastic and restoration of the site will be completed in the coming weeks. Around 120 tonnes of plastic have been removed, with 12 tonnes successfully recycled so far and the team anticipating the rest will also be recycled.
Luke Bryant, Project Manager at West Cumbria Rivers Trust, said: “The river is looking fantastic. In the last four weeks we’ve had several high rainfall events causing very high flows to cascade down the newly restored river. The new features have coped brilliantly, which is testament to the team’s design and implementation of the project.
“The site is also recovering quickly – we’re seeing vegetation growing back nicely on the riverbanks. We’re really looking forward to future surveys where we’ll be able to assess the number of fish in the river.”
The liner was installed in the 1990s but had broken up, causing plastic pollution and local flooding. Researchers at the University of Salford estimated that the liner has been shedding plastic particles at a rate of 500 kg per year since it was installed, in findings first reported by The i.
West Cumbria Rivers Trust thanks its project partners and supporters for their assistance: the Environment Agency, DEFRA, Natural England, principal contractor OpenSpace, AECOM, AquaUoS, the Rivers Trust, Esmee Fairbairn and United Utilities.