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THE RUSTY OLD ASBESTOS CONTAINERS – ‘JERSEY’S NO 1 HEALTH RISK’ (Deputy Kevin Lewis, last Minister TTS)

After years of inaction, then three years of stalemate between the Planning and Environment and TTS departments, ‘Jersey’s No 1 Health risk’ – the asbestos containers and their contents – look set to be emptied into a hugely expensive lined and sealed pit at La Collette.

Those interested in the ongoing saga of the highly problematic and potentially dangerous pile of old rusting shipping containers stacked out to sea at La Collette, may be interested to know what the future holds.

Dodgy asbestos containers - number one health hazard in Jersey
Dodgy asbestos containers – number one health hazard in Jersey. Full size pic at end of post.

In 2011, Deputy Kevin Lewis, the last TTS MInister, vowed to finally deal with the problem, and to his credit he and his CEO John Rogers explored options including two that we at SOSJ came up with. The most recent technology ‘In container vitrification’ (ICV) looked set to have a trial at La Collette after talks with the US company Kurion as reported by us last year.

A burial licence was issued from Planning Minister Rob Duhamel on the condition that it was temporary and the material would be exhumed at a later date – something we know would never happen.

The Minister wanted to export the containers to France to a processing plant but there were concerns that workers there may be exposed to contamination and it was our problem. TTS tried to get an ‘engineered’ solution. The Department decided to try and get a licence to export the existing 250+ containers to the UK to a specialist facility, then treat the new incoming material by ICV on site – a cost effective method that would mean that the material would effectively be turned into glass.

But DEFRA would not issue the export licence saying that we had a sufficiently large landfill area here – yes, true, it’s already toxic landfill… but how much longer can we bury hazardous waste there? The older pits are leaking heavy metals from the bottom into the sea; it’s not a legacy we should be leaving.

So it looks like the asbestos coated materials will have to be extracted, sorted, repackaged and the contaminated parts buried in a lined pit as the one our SOSJ aerial photo shows. Asbestos is mostly safe once buried (unless distrubed by animals) and will not leach into the water table. But its mixed in with boiler parts and other builders’ waste and will be a nightmare to separate – if indeed it can be done. The transfer of material is highly hazardous and it would have to be done in a controlled environment.

Mind you the esplanade car park should be a controlled environment and tented in, but that’s another matter.

We are sure that TTS will do it right, but it’s such a shame that once again SOSJ came up with a safe elegant solution that won’t now be used.

TTS were on board with it until the last elections came around, the financial climate changed and the new ministers have different priorities. Shame on them putting this nimber one health hazard back many years. Environment was very low on the list of election manifestos – it didn’t actually feature on many at all.

We hope that there will be a change of heart by DEFRA, but we aren’t holding our breath. We will keep you posted as things happen.

Dodgy asbestos containers - number one health hazard in Jersey
Dodgy asbestos containers – number one health hazard in Jersey. 
Old asbestos containers – Jersey’s number one health hazard
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