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A strange looking rig which appeared off the coast of Whitehaven in January is due back at the end of the month - and this time it could be here for a while. The jack-up barge will be preparing the sea bed for a new 1km pipe which will eventually take the town's treated waste water and storm water far out to sea where it will disperse harmlessly beneath the waves.
The £8m pipe is being built by water company United Utilities to replace its existing long sea outfall from Parton Waste Water Treatment Works.
Project manager Sean McGahan said the outfall pipe had served the community well but was nearing the end of its useful life.
"Our existing pipe has played a huge part in cleaning up the sea along the Cumbrian coast over the years but it has started to corrode and now it needs too much repair work. The new pipe will give Whitehaven much better service and help protect local beaches. It's being made from plastic which just doesn't rust and will also be more blockage-resistant."
The pipe is being built in four sections by a specialist manufacturer in Norway. Because of a low railway bridge, it can't be brought to Parton by road, so engineers will be shipping it straight to Workington port and jointing it together on the docks before towing the complete pipe by sea along the Cumbrian coast.
Design manager Martin Berry said, because all the activity was taking place at sea, there would be minimal impact on local residents or drivers but the company was still keen that people knew what was going on
"This is one way that money from people's bills is making a real impact. We will need to do some work on the foreshore at the beginning and end of the project when we carry out some trial holes and, later, connect the new pipe to our system," he said.
Engineers are hoping to get the work completed this year, but it will be very weather-dependent, added Martin.
"It will be challenging enough working at sea without the danger of working in high winds and waves. Our workers' safety will be a priority for us. We have deliberately timed our work for the summer months to give us the best chance of finishing it this year, so we're hoping the summer starts living up to its name."
The new outfall pipe is part of a multi-million pound programme of work to survey and improve similar structures all along the North West coast from Hoylake, on the Wirral, to Allonby, on the Solway Firth, and even some inland, in lakes.