We featured in the November issue of the MOD’s Sanctuary Magazine! Thanks to Sarah Maiden (Environmental Manager at Kelda Water Services) and Tim Gibb (SHE Advisor at RNAS Culdrose) for writing this article.
Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Culdrose, located in West Cornwall in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, places great importance in its relationships with the local area and community. Just 1km from the MOD boundary is Loe Pool, a Site of Special Scientific Interest which along with the Penrose Estate, is in the care of the National Trust. Loe Pool is the largest natural freshwater lake in Cornwall and is cut off from the
sea by a broad shingle bar heaped up by heavy Atlantic seas.
Loe Pool is a truly beautiful place – no wonder organisations and individuals strive to improve the water environment to encourage plant and wildlife to flourish. Unfortunately, the pool has historically suffered from eutrophication, a process where nutrients in the water feed algae. This leads to algal blooms, which reduce the oxygen levels in the water causing difficult conditions for aquatic life.
A potential cause of this problem was the Kelda Water Services (Defence) (KWSD) sewage treatment works (STW) at RNAS Culdrose, home to approximately 3000 military personnel. Consequently a group of organisations came together a few years ago to investigate the impact that the STW was having on the pool. There are six tributaries flowing into Loe Pool and these were sampled every week for a year by National Trust volunteers. The Environment Agency then used this information to apply a phosphorous limit to the discharge permit at KWSD STW: KWSD and Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) have invested upwards of £1m upgrading the STW to ensure compliance with these new environmental permit conditions.
KWSD hosted an open day for all interested parties to have a tour and see the improvements. Personnel from RNAS Culdrose, including the Head of Establishment, Captain Adrian Orchard OBE RN, attended the event, as well as representatives of South West Water, Helston College, Natural England, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, DIO, the University of Exeter, the Environment Agency, members of the Loe Pool forum and the National Trust. This open day was a great success, reinforcing for the attendees the passion for improving the water quality in Loe Pool. It also attracted the interest of BBC News, who broadcast a piece about the pool shortly afterwards.
The phosphorus levels being discharged from the ST W have decreased from around 5mg/l to less than 1mg/l. This is a significant decrease and a real win for the environment. The impact that this has on the water quality will be monitored over the coming years.