2 June 2011

Water Polution Reporting

Message from Hugh Barlow, 1st June. This first message is important and invites your contribution when you have anything to report. The various messages following are there to give you the background on how this came about.

I met Doug Parker today as arranged. He is the Environment Agency officer responsible for water quality, and in this capacity is a regular visitor to this site, among others in Seaton and elsewhere.

It was a pleasure to meet a professional person who welcomes public watchfulness.

Contractors do not usually contact the Agency if they have a problem, but they are obliged to keep the Agency informed once the EA has been alerted, and remedial action or continued monitoring is required by the Agency (Doug is visiting weekly anyway). So they are reliant on the public for informing them of any disconcerting new observations.

He was alerted to the flooding of the tramway car park flower bed, and had asked the site manager to provide a sump just inside the site boundary: once the tidally affected groundwater level had lowered, and the salt water off the site had begun to go down, this had the effect of lowering it more rapidly, until all that was visible was the white deposit on the asphalt and in the flower bed. We discussed this on the very spot.

We inspected the ditches alongside the tramway, and went far enough to see how impossibly silted up the outlet to the estuary is (the outlet is visible in his pictures, under the tramway bridge). This is the responsibility of the County Council, but discussion with Natural England led to the postponement of the clearance last year during the birds' breeding season. He is now concerned that it has still not been done, and may become urgent even in the breeding season, if warmer weather leads to the growth of the potentially toxic blue-green kind of algae.

Currently, all that is visible in the stagnant water is ordinary blue (almost petrol-blue) algae, and ochre staining (which might be iron stain from the site, but is more likely from a local ground source).
He himself is not a flooding expert, but would recognise a potential flooding problem, and will already have advised his colleague Steve Moore of the blocked outlet.

So Doug would like, from any local observations, preferably
photos of any of the following in the ditches:
  • bright blue salt water
  • blue-green algae
  • bright ochre tinting.
  • serious mosquito infestation
The first is now unlikely to recur, the second is quite possible, the last two are possibilities. Basically, any startling change of colour is worth notifying, because it could indicate serious pollution.
He is also concerned with the Harbour View pumping station, which is close to full capacity. Any blockage there could cause a backflow leading to raised manhole covers. If anyone sees sewage leaking into the water courses, they should contact him immediately and he will try to be on site in thirty minutes. This obviously applies anywhere and not just in the Tesco site. Most of these are problems
of the low-lying ground, and have nothing specifically to do with Tesco.
Problems which happen to be thrown up by the Tesco development are not the only problems, but we are being educated in public awareness. I was given to believe that, on some issues at least, the public will be taken seriously.
I have Doug's e-mail address, and the Environment Agency is in the phone book.

From: Doug Parker
To: Hugh Barlow
Sent: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 4:50 PM
Subject: FW: Harbour Road Development Site - Seaton

Dear Mr Barlow,
Thank you for your observations, as this is our first contact I will explain my role in this development. As a basic Environment Officer I cover various areas from Water Quality, Water Resources to Waste and Fisheries Enforcement. I have been aware of the old camp site for several years and more so now with the new development starting with me visiting the site during the demolition phase, checking that all the various types of waste were disposed of correctly, then the monitoring of the returning sea water and now I monitor water quality discharges that leave the site. My main area of interest for now is the water quality of the local watercourses around the site, then once construction starts I will also check their disposal routes of all their packaging and building waste.
Please see the attached photos which were taken on Friday the 20th of May, reference your concerns about the outlet to the estuary. I believe that this part of the drainage ditch has not been maintained by the LA for over 18 months plus see below part of an email which I sent to EDDC only last week.

Doug Parker
EO - EM East Devon

Hugh Barlow
Steve Moore
Sent: Monday, May 30, 2011 11:11 PM
Subject: Re: Harbour Road, Seaton: infill consequences

Thanks for passing this to Doug Parker. Can I through you relay to him my corrected observations?
The berm was not, as I thought at one stage, covered over (I had misread a couple of photographs taken from the tramway by a colleague), but it was clearly overwhelmed by the initial squeezing of sand and water out of the fill and into the ditch. Along the other sides of the development, and clearly visible from the tramway by the car park, the sand heap reaches right to the ditch, and sand obviously blows or is washed directly into the ditch with nothing to prevent it.
At least until the sand is fixed by grass, this situation will continue, the ditches will be clogged with sand, and the salinity of the adjacent area increased. What happens in the event of a major rainstorm?
The increase in the salinity of the groundwater and of the ditches must eventually affect a wider area, and I am not sure what the impact is on the outlet to the estuary.
I should be glad to know what you make of these concerns.
Hugh Barlow

From: Steve Moore, to Hugh Barlow, Doug Parker, May 24th

Hugh , apologies for not getting back to you last week but I've been either on training or on holiday since you wrote.
In general terms I comment upon flooding related matters in relation to planning applications for a number of Councils My involvement therefore typically ends when a planning permmission is granted. It is then for the planning authority to ensure the dev't is built or any 'conditions' are carried out to the satisfaction of the Council. Matters relating to site runoff, water quality , impact upon the wider water environment , etc , are typically dealt with by my colleagues in Environment Protection . In this case Doug Parker is the chap who looks after such matters in Seaton and as such I've forwarded your e-mail to Doug for his information and/or action. I trust this is of assistance . Please feel free to get back to me if I can help you further.
kind regards Steve.
Doug, over to you for action / update to Hugh. Please give me ring if I can be of any assistance to you. Steve.

From: Hugh
Sent: 19 May 2011 10:38
To: Moore, Steve
Cc: James Semple
Subject: Harbour Road, Seaton: infill consequences

Dear Steve
I am content that various consultancies and agencies, including the Environment Agency, are monitoring and advising on site, but I would be interested to know how you view specific aspects of the current state of progress.
As I see it, a gravel-filled berm was constructed per plan between the raised site and the boundary rhyne, but the raised area has been extended over this berm. As it stands, then, there is nothing to prevent sand-laden water from the saturated fill from draining directly into the rhyne and clogging it up, as appears to have happened already. What remedial measures can be taken or have such already been recommended?
Thank you for your continued interest in this difficult development.
Yours sincerely
Hugh Barlow
Chair, Seaton Development Trust

1 comment:

  1. Hugh, once again, thanks for the update.

    This does rather seem like closing the gate after the horse has bolted. I asked the EA to investigate this at the start of April and they said there would be no problems from salt water on the site.

    The outline planning for the site said that it should be bunded to prevent uncontrolled discharge of saline water, silt and sediment. The point of this was to prevent polution to adjoining water courses. EDDC were aware, but the water was still allowed to flow from the site.

    Check out what the Environement Agency think is the correct thing to do around a construction site at this link http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/netregs/businesses/construction/62333.aspx . Now compare this with the Harbour Road site!