Mann: Prompt Response From Minister on Harbour Silt Queries

NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE

Manx Infrastructure Minister Phillip Gawne, MHK, has responded to a number of queries from the Celtic League about the disposal of dredged silt from Peel Harbour to an onshore site at Poortown in the West of the Island.

I set out our original queries below with the Ministers response

a) Is the decision to deposit silt on an open field site (at Poortown) a secure option for the potentially contaminated material?

Minister: YES

b) Has an independent environmental impact assessment of the level of contaminants in the silt to be removed been undertaken?

Minister: No – Internal

c) Has an independent long term impact assessment been undertaken for the site near Poortown which you intend to use?

Minister: No -Internal

d) Has the potential for leaching of contaminants from the removed material into ground water in the Poortown area been assessed?

Minister: d) Yes – fully engineered solution to minimize risk

e) Is your Department aware of a general report on contamination compiled some years ago by the British Armies Royal Engineers which showed that surface contamination of a comparatively small area could cause a dramatic spread of contamination if the surface contaminants eventually seeped through to the water table beneath the site?

Minister: No but we are putting the material on a specially prepared surface to minimize the risk

f) Have any potential hazards been identified in relation to dredging the material from Peel Harbour and removing it via the Town of Peel to the Poortown site?

Minister: Yes but the risk is minimal and we have significant measures in place to reduce the risk even further

g) Is the reason for the on land storage/disposal of this material caused by the fact that the silt is to contaminated to be disposed of at sea?

Minister: Yes – in much smaller quantities the risk is minimal but with the very large amount we need to dispose of we would likely close down the king and queen scallop fishery for a year or two.

The Ministers also confirms that he has given ‘a full explanation, apology and reassurance’ to the Local authority for the area (German Commissioners) who have articulated concerns.

The Celtic League welcome the Ministers prompt response and also appreciate the difficulty the Department faces. The Harbour must be dredged for Marina users and pollution of potentially lucrative fishing grounds is certainly not an option.

However the Harbour area at Peel was identified as the most polluted on the Island Harbour/Estuary in terms of heavy metals.

It is also unfortunately that the environmental assessments were not undertaken independently. This could still be done swiftly (presumably much of the data has been collected) and may provide greater reassurance to the local authority and the public. We would certainly suggest the Minister consider this.

Additionally engineering of dump sites does not have a good track record on the Island.

There are options available to decontaminate silt (or reduce levels of contaminants) a report funded by the UK Department of the Environment (1996) sets out a number of options some expensive others less so.

The Minister indicates that they (the Department) are unaware of the report produced by the Royal Engineers in the 1980s (by 2nd Lt Verity Orrel Jones). That report was one of the first to highlight the wide dispersal pattern of contaminants from a relatively small site if they manage to permeate to the water table. Were that to occur in the Poortown area the situation would not be recoverable.

J B Moffatt (Mr)

Director of Information
Celtic League

02/04/15

(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)

ISSUED BY THE CELTIC LEAGUE INFORMATION SERVICE

The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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