WORK to protect one of the nation’s most iconic waterways from pollution has stepped up a gear.
In February, oil from the former Hartington cheese factory was discovered to be contaminating one of the tributaries of the River Dove –which runs right through the heart of the Peak District National Park.
Oil-absorbent materials were placed downstream of the contamination in order to minimise the potentially devastating impact of the substance, but it continued to discharge into the water more than two months later.
But the Environment Agency has now stepped up their work on the site and in a statement to the Buxton Advertiser, said: “On May 2, 2012, the Environment Agency excavated the oily soil directly surrounding the plinth where the former transformer used to sit at the old cheese factory in Hartington.
“We continued with the excavation until we came to low permeability natural ground where there was no oil visible.
“We have taken samples from the natural ground to see if we could identify any oil.
“Once we receive these sample results we will decide what further steps to take.
“We removed the oily soil and replaced it with clean, uncontaminated soil. We will continue to monitor the tributary of the River Dove adjacent to the site.”
Andy Heath, river keeper for a local trout fishery, said that while the discharge of oil into the river was no longer an issue, the long-term impact of the contamination could not yet be determined.
“My disappointment and anger now is with the site owner,” he added.
“There has to be somebody who takes responsibility for this and does the right thing. This should have been stopped straight away when it first happened.”
In January, the Peak District National Park Authority unanimously refused planning permission for 39 new houses plus business units, a recreation area, sports pitch and children’s playground, allotments and car park, on the site of the former cheese factory on Stonewell Lane.
But the developers Cathelco appealed against the decision and the matter will now be decided by the Planning Inspectorate. However, no date for a hearing has yet been set.