Water company bosses have launched an emergency repair scheme to avoid the potential risk of a serious pollution incident in the River Tyne.
Northumbrian Water is carrying out the work on the river just downstream from Hexham Bridge to tackle the threat of a sewage pipe cracking and polluting the waterway.
The work - which started last month and is expected to take until mid-October to complete - involves damming and diverting part of the waters to allow repairs to be carried out.
Yesterday the firm said the exact cost of the urgent scheme is not yet known, but will run into several hundred thousand pounds.
It is being closely monitored by the independent environmental charity Tyne Rivers Trust, which says there has been widespread concern about the activity on the river since the incident first arose several weeks ago.
However the Trust, which acts as the guardian of the Tyne and its tributaries, says the work provides a long-term solution to the problem and is in the best interests of the river.
The problem stems from a Northumbrian Water rising main sewage pipe which runs across the river, and through Broomhaugh Island, into Hexham sewage works.
It is held in place by concrete anchors on either side of the river, which have moved following heavy rainfall in recent months.
This has caused the sewage pipe to twist, although the firm has stressed that it is not fractured or leaking.
Because of the risk of the pipe cracking, NW is now re-fixing and strengthening the two concrete anchors, and replacing the section of sewage pipe which crosses the river.
Yesterday NW spokeswoman, Cara Charlton, said:”This sewer pipe takes waste water across the river, but has twisted because of its two anchors moving following heavy rain.
“It is not leaking but we were concerned that if we didn’t do this work the pipe could become damaged.
“We are working 12 hours a day, seven days a week to get the work done quickly. We have spoken to the Tyne Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency and the local angling association, who know about the work and are happy with it.”
Trust chairman David Ronn said: “ We are deeply concerned about any potential threat to the Tyne and we will be watching very closely what goes on. The thing needs to be put right because there could be a massive problem for the river if the pipe fractures.
“Northumbrian Water has, in the last week or so, made a lot of effort to talk to us and tell us what they are doing.”
Mr Ronn said the Trust had sought, and been given, assurances from NW that the pipe would be made 100% safe, that the work will result in a long-term fix, that the safe passage of fish will continue and that all measures would be taken to prevent any pollution or siltation during the work.
He said: “TRT believes that a long-term solution is in the best interests of the river, even though it means a lot of disruption over the next few months.”