We first identified the leak during a routine weekly engineering inspection on 21 June. A 730-metre section of the Lancaster Canal was drained early last week and engineers have now identified three holes in the 218 year old clay-lined bed, about 100 metres south of the aqueduct.
Fish in the area were rescued and removed to safety either side of temporary dams which have been installed at Halton Road Bridge (no 108) and 370 metres north of Dolphinlee Bridge (no 105). Despite the heatwave over 90% of the fish have already been successfully transported and the Trust's specialist team is back on site this week to remove the smaller fish using nets.
To maintain water levels on the north of the aqueduct, water will be pumped around the drained section. We hope to be able to keep the towpath open throughout the repair work and reopen the canal to boats by the end of July.
Chantelle Seaborn, North West waterway manager with the Canal & River Trust, explained: “Unfortunately these sorts of things can happen when caring for a 200-year old structure but we are taking swift action to repair and reopen the canal. In the meantime our teams are contacting boaters who are affected by the closure and making sure we do all we can to protect local wildlife.
“The specialist team carrying out the rescue are amazed at the increase in the number of fish in the canal – five times more than when they were last here six years ago. Large quantities of perch, roach, tench and bream have been rescued from this stretch which is very encouraging in terms of the canal's general water quality. ”
Working flat out
Graham Ramsden, project manager with the Canal & River Trust, said: “Our contractors, Kier, will be working flat out, including weekends and evenings, to carry out these emergency repairs as speedily as possible.
“We plan to excavate a 35-metre length of canal to remove silt and expose the holes. We will then backfill with clay to the normal canal bed level, install a new waterproof liner, then cover with more clay and ‘rip rap rock armour' to protect the bed from boat damage.”