Con­cerns over coal spoil tip

Cynon Valley - - FRONT PAGE - THOMAS DEA­CON thomas.dea­con@waleson­

TOR­REN­TIAL rain dur­ing Storm Cal­lum caused a coal spoil tip in hir­waun to ap­pear to “col­lapse”.

heavy down­pours caused part of the Tower Col­liery tip to slip away.

TOR­REN­TIAL rain dur­ing Storm Cal­lum caused a coal spoil tip to ap­pear to “col­lapse”.

Heavy down­pours on Fri­day morn­ing caused part of the tip at the Tower Col­liery in Hir­waun to slip away.

Pic­tures from the site show a huge gap in the tip and a large amount of dis­placed ma­te­rial.

One res­i­dent said houses are around 600 me­tres from the area and con­cerns have been raised over the safety of the tip.

The man­ag­ing direc­tor of Tower Col­lier said that the pho­to­graphs did not show a col­lapse and said that it was a fea­ture of wa­ter man­age­ment sys­tems used at the site.

A coun­cil spokesman said that the pic­tures showed a “scour” where fast-mov­ing wa­ter can move sed­i­ment and that it was not a land­slip.

The in­ci­dent hap­pened on the tip near the end of Tower Road in Hir­waun and is be­lieved to have con­trib­uted to the flood­ing of the Heads of the Val­leys road.

The mine closed in 2008 af­ter the coal re­serves were fi­nally ex­hausted af­ter 140 years of pro­duc­tion.

Hir­waun councillor Karen Mor­gan said coun­cil engi­neers told her they found that re­cent in­tense rain­fall had caused sur­face wa­ter con­trols on the site to go above their ca­pac­ity “caus­ing ex­ces­sive scour of the tip and ero­sion”.

The sur­face wa­ter then moved over­land to­wards the A465 Heads of the Val­leys Road caus­ing flood­ing, in com­bi­na­tion with the heavy rain­fall.

Cllr Mor­gan said: “Dur­ing the bad weather on Fri­day by 10am it had hap­pened.

“My con­cern is that it hap­pened by 10am in the morn­ing. As you can from the pho­tos it col­lapsed at that point.

“I still have ques­tions. We have rain here, they are call­ing it storm Cal­lum but we have had heavy rain many times be­fore.

“What­ever the cause, my main con­cern is that nec­es­sary ac­tion is taken now to en­sure that this does not hap­pen again.”

One con­cerned res­i­dent, who lives around 600 me­tres from the area, said: “It hap­pened dur­ing the rains. I hadn’t been up there for a good while be­cause of the weather.

“I took the dog up there and then I saw the col­lapse, I thought it’s not the best.

“It’s a popular area with cy­clists and dog walk­ers.”

A pub­lic meet­ing about the in­ci­dent is be­ing held on Oc­to­ber 29 at Ramoth Chapel, Hir­waun, at 7pm.

Cllr Mor­gan said: “What the is­sue is that I want re­as­sur­ances that the in­tegrity of the pit is safe and it will not hap­pen again.

“If this had hap­pened last au­tumn, it was at least twice the height, it does not bear think­ing about.”

The A465 Heads of the Val­leys road was closed at 8.25am on Fri­day due to flood­ing be­tween the Rhi­gos and Hir­waun round­abouts.

The clo­sure caused two miles of traf­fic queues in the area.

An RCT Coun­cil spokesman said: “Fol­low­ing the un­prece­dented weather from Storm Cal­lum last week­end, the coun­cil is in­ves­ti­gat­ing flood­ing to the A465 and the con­veyance of sur­face wa­ter from the Tower Col­liery site.

“Of­fi­cers have at­tended with the Site Man­ager to in­ves­ti­gate the cause of the flood­ing and dam­age to the earth em­bank­ment within the site bound­ary.

“This has iden­ti­fied the dam­age as a sur­face wa­ter scour, and not a land­slip, due to the in­tense rain­fall - mea­sured at 180mm by the Tower Col­liery rain gauge in just 48 hours.

“Tower Col­liery have had crews on site clear­ing the scoured ma­te­rial, and the Coun­cil will work with the site man­ager and the com­pany’s drainage teams to clar­ify the cur­rent on-site sur­face wa­ter con­trols, and their pro­pos­als for the fore­see­able fu­ture.”

Tony Shott, man­ag­ing direc­tor of Tower Col­liery, said: “There was no col­lapse or slip on any part of the restora­tion area.

“The pho­to­graph [shows] was not a slip but part of the wa­ter man­age­ment sys­tems used at the site to pre­vent the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of wa­ter be­hind the front face screen­ing bunds.

“There was no dan­ger to any­one from the site op­er­a­tions let alone dan­ger to the school in Hir­waun.

“The rea­son for the wa­ter flows off site was en­tirely due to the un­prece­dented rain­fall - roads & prop­er­ties all over Wales suf­fered floods.

“The wa­ter flows off site are con­trolled by drain sizes un­der the high­ways - our site pipes are lim­ited in size to these.

“Open­cast op­er­a­tions are con­trolled and mon­i­tored by the Health & Safety Ex­ec­u­tive in ad­di­tion to Nat­u­ral Re­sources Wales and the High­ways Agen­cies with any breaches in safety ex­am­ined in depth.

“All are aware of the weather and no con­tra­ven­tions have oc­curred.”

In Jan­uary the col­liery chair­man Ty­rone O’Sullivan said he hopes hun­dreds of homes and a new cul­tural cen­tre will be built on the site within years.

For more pic­tures go to waleson­

The col­lapse of part of the coal tip at the Tower Col­liery in Hir­wuan fol­low­ing heavy rain dur­ing Storm Cal­lum

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