Making a complaint to the European Courts of Justice: Thomas Hughes

THE Chairman of the Cockle Association for the Burry Inlet Thomas Hughes has claimed that contaminated waste is being dumped on a stretch of foreshore within the Millennium Coastal Park and that no one including the County Council, Natural Resources Wales or the Welsh Assembly is doing anything about it. Mr Hughes who has been a cockle gatherer for over 20 years was instrumental in taking the UK government through the European Courts of Justice, which resulted in the setting of a a precedent, which protects the livelihood of the cockle gatherers and the special environmental area known as the Burry Inlet.

Mr Hughes contacted Llanelli Online after witnessing what he claims was the dumping of ‘contaminated waste materials’ being dredged and taken from the Burry Port Harbour. Mr Hughes claims that the material contains human waste, industrial waste and possible harmful contaminants, which have leaked into the harbour from the heavily polluted land known as the ‘Grillo’ site.

Mr Hughes claims that the contaminated waste is being dumped under the noses of Natural Resources Wales and the County Council and that the work does not comply with EU directives, which insist that the material should have been subject to scientific analysis including a test of likely significance and an environmental impact assessment. Mr Hughes claims that the material is being washed back onto the cockle beds threatening the livelihood of the cockle gatherers who he claims are already under pressure due to years and years of mass mortalities caused by pollution from spillages from combined sewer outlets along the estuary.

 

 

 

 

Mr Hughes says that he is now going to make an official complaint via the European Courts to try and put a stop to the alleged pollution.

We contacted the County Council and asked them the following questions;

Is there scientific evidence to support the dredging of the harbour and dumping the material on the foreshore? If so would you be able to supply such documented evidence?

Has the material being dredged been subject to a test of likely significance and has it been subject to an environmental impact assessment? If so again, could you supply documented evidence?

Have you been monitoring whether or not contaminated materials have been escaping into the harbour from the adjacent former industrial site known as the Grillo Site? If so could we please view copies of any reports to support the monitoring?

Does the council believe that the dumping of the contaminated material poses any health risks to the general public, animal – marine life? If they do not could you supply any evidence supporting your view?

Does the council regard the dumping of the waste as within the controls set out by the European Court regarding the protection of the Burry Inlet? If so would you be able to supply any supporting evidence?

Has the council issued or seen any documents authorising the movement of the contaminated material?

Considering the legislation and precedents attached what if anything has been undertaken before and during dredging to ensure the protection of this Natura 2000 site and highly protected estuary?

We received the following response;

The responsibility for managing and dredging the Harbour, has since transferred over to Burry Port Marina Ltd (part of the Marine Group) since the 1st April 2018. The local authority is satisfied that the necessary consents have been obtained by the new operator to safely dredge the Harbour.

We reminded the council that they owned the Millennium Coastal Park upon which the material was being dumped. We asked if the council were being paid to take the waste. We also asked if residents were now free to take their waste to the Millennium Coastal Park.

 

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We contacted the developers The Marine Group. They were not available for comment.

We contacted the Welsh Assembly Minister for the Environment Hannah Blethyn and asked:

Who in the Welsh Assembly is responsible for ensuring that the estuary is afforded protection given its status as a Natura 2000 site and highly protected site?

What measures have been taken to ensure that the work being carried out by the developers at the harbour comply with the precedents set out by the European Courts?

We had not received a response at the time of publication.

We contacted Natural Resources Wales and asked:

Who in Natural Resources Wales is responsible for ensuring that the estuary is afforded protection given its status as a Natura 2000 and highly protected site?

What measures have been taken to ensure that the work being carried out by the developers at the harbour comply with the precedents set out by the European Courts (doc attached)?

Who in Natural Resources Wales is responsible for ensuring that the estuary is afforded protection given its status as a Natura 2000 and highly protected site?

What measures have been taken to ensure that the work being carried out by the developers at the harbour comply with the precedents set out by the European Courts?

NRW responded:

The Burry inlet forms part of the Carmarthen Bay and Estuaries European Marine Site which is afforded the highest level of marine protection. Responsibility for its protection is shared between a number of Competent Authorities, including NRW, local authorities, harbour authorities, conservation authorities and water companies. In this instance, NRW can confirm that the activity is part of the routine maintenance dredge of the harbour approach channel. This activity is undertaken by Burry Port Marina Ltd who are the current harbour authority. The Burry Port Harbour Revision Order 2000 (HRO) came into effect on 25 August 2000 and superseded the previous Harbour Act. The HRO gives the authority powers to dredge.

(see Article 18 of the HRO http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2000/2152/pdfs/uksi_20002152_en.pdf ).

As has been the case for a number of years the dredged sand is deposited on Carmarthenshire Council land above the high water spring mark to the east and west of the harbour. As part of this process the harbour authority undertook sediment sampling of the dredge material. These sample results are checked against international standards (CEFAS action levels) in order to ensure that the sediment to be deposited is free of contaminants and is suitable for disposal at sea. NRW has reviewed the sample results and can confirm that the levels of contaminants within the sand are below CEFAS Action Level 1 (the most stringent standard). This is to be expected given that the sediment is medium to fine marine sand which originates from the wider Burry inlet and has deposited in the harbor entrance channel by longshore drift.

In conclusion, NRW does not consider that dredging of Burry Port harbour and the approach channel has any detrimental effect on the estuary and the Burry Inlet cockle fishery.

Who’s polluting the Burry Inlet? from Llanelli Online on Vimeo.

Robert Griffiths, secretary of Burry Inlet Hand Gatherers’ Association told Llanelli Online; “We have been trying to tell them about this massive problem of pollution in the Burry Inlet for years but they have done absolutely nothing. We raised a petition with the Welsh Assembly following several incidents of the sewage system spilling into local rivers.”

Another member of the cockle gathering community who did not wish to be named said: “What is happening in the estuary is a clear breach of the directives set by the European Courts of JusticeThere are historic reports which identify that the harbour contains contaminated materials. Historically the council couldn’t dump the silt, they had to pile it up beside the boat club. It was too expensive to get rid of the waste. Are we now to believe that the council are operating an unlicensed tip in the Millennium Coastal Park allowing the same contaminated waste to wash down to Llanelli?”

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