Safety

Dye used to deter quarry swimming

According to a report by South Yorkshire Times, the abandoned Skelbrooke Quarry located in Doncaster, England recently experienced a spate of trespassing incidents. This was particularly worrying for quarry owner and waste management company FCC Environment given that seven youths had reportedly already drowned across the United Kingdom since the summer heatwave began. One of these incidents – which happened only weeks ago – involved the death of a young man who was swimming in another disused Doncaster quarry.

“We understand the temptation to swim while the weather is warm but we would like to emphasise that swimming at unsupervised sites like this is very dangerous, as the water is still exceptionally cold and hidden rocks lie just beneath the surface,” FCC Environment area manager for landfill Mark Pailing told the South Yorkshire Times. “Sadly there are a number of tragic drowning accidents in the UK every summer.”

In order to prevent further tragedies, the company has stepped up security at the quarry site, introducing regular patrols and adding extra perimeter fencing. The company also plans to use dye to turn the water black and make it less appealing.

Blue Lagoon turned black
This is not the first time that dye has been used in the UK to deter would-be swimmers from the numerous dangers that lie in the depths of quarry lakes. In June 2013, the Daily Mail reported that the same method had been employed at a disused limestone quarry located in Harpur Hill, Derbyshire.

The so-called Blue Lagoon’s “tropical-looking” water had attracted families to swim at the site for decades, despite the large amount of signage warning of the risks. It was said that the water’s colour was due to calcite crystals that leaked into the water from the surrounding limestone, transforming it into a vivid turquoise.

Unlike the Doncaster quarry, however, the Blue Lagoon’s waters contained far more hazards than a cool temperature and hidden rocks. The Derbyshire quarry’s water was said to be almost as toxic as bleach due to the presence of calcium oxide, a by-product that was likely generated in the original quarrying operation. The quarry also reportedly contained dead animals, excrement, rubbish and even abandoned cars.

Although Australia’s disused quarries also experience their fair share of intrusions, it is unlikely that the dye would be used here. Greg Thomson, the director of the Hunter Valley-based environmental consulting firm VGT, said that he had never heard of the method being used in Australian quarries, and doubted it would ever be introduced.

“I feel convincing the Environment Protection Authority and community that the dye is not going to impact the local water supply – be it through surface water run off, groundwater seepage and/or evaporation – would be a very difficult sell,” he explained.

Signage, perimeter fencing and security still remain the most common methods used in Australia to protect disused quarry sites.

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