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Water Act 2003

Section 85: Coal mine water pollution
385. .Section 85: Control of water from coal mines.

This section amends the Coal Industry Act 1994 in respect of England and Wales. Preventing and cleaning-up coal mine water pollution from abandoned mines is a major environmental activity for the Coal Authority which has been running for a number of years. The programme has been run on a non-statutory basis and receives funding from the DTI.

386.In view of the increasing expenditure on this programme it is, in the Government’s view, important that the programme should be put on a statutory basis.

387.Section 85 therefore provides the Coal Authority with statutory powers to prevent and control water emanating onto land or into any controlled waters from abandoned coal mines which are vested in it. In this respect, controlled waters means any rivers, estuaries, coastal waters or groundwaters.

388.In addition to the powers to prevent or control water emanating from abandoned coal mines, this section gives the Coal Authority powers to enter land to drill boreholes and install monitoring and other equipment. This will allow the Coal Authority to investigate and deal with any polluting water from coal mines that poses a serious threat to the environment or human health. Powers are also provided for the Coal Authority to compulsorily buy land to prevent or treat water pollution from abandoned coal mines.

389.These statutory powers build upon the existing provisions of the Coal Authority’s founding legislation, the Coal Industry Act 1994. As the Authority’s minewater programme already exists, the work of the Environment Agency, which operates under pollution control powers in the WRA, is unaffected by this change.

390.While the Coal Authority’s powers are similar to those of the EA they work independently. Notwithstanding, a memorandum of understanding exists between the two organisations which sets out the mechanics of tackling coal minewater discharges and ensures that the EA is kept fully informed of the Coal Authority’s activities.

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