This response is with reference to the article in the Jersey Evening Post (Monday 03 October 2016), ‘Environment hit back over alarmist pollution claims’ and a couple of other erroneous statements we have heard/seen on the media.
The article reports the Environment Department were very critical of the figures SOS Jersey used to come to their conclusions on conditions in the Bay. We would like it noted the figures in question were in fact the ones supplied to us by the Environment Department themselves following a Freedom of Information request.
Environment’s own figures confirmed that the DfI are daily exceeding their discharge permit levels by up to six times and have been doing so since 2011, when a caution was issued by the Regulator and then a case file was prepared for the Attorney General, but not pursued. These are simply the facts.
Whilst the discharges of nitrates are way too high (and illegal) we were indeed shocked at the ammonia levels which make up the Total Nitrogen (TN) load. All discharged substances including suspend solids are diluted at high tide and it should be safe to swim in the bay. Whether one would want to, however, is a personal matter.
The main effect of the excess nitrogen being poured into the Bay is that on sea lettuce growth. This problem is something that we would like to work on with both Environment and the DfI to reduce.
You can see the link to our report at the end of this rebuttal.
At no point in the report did we mention the Bay is not suitable for swimming; nor did we mention it was not safe for dog walking, as the Department have also claimed we said. Neither have we ever put up posters saying the beach is not safe for dogs.
During a radio interview, however, one of the team was asked the question about dog walking and swimming in St Aubin’s Bay: she replied one should exercise caution around the outflow itself (which has high nitrates and sometimes high bacterial levels) and also avoid the stacked up, dead sea lettuce (which can release toxic gases if disturbed).
How this was translated by the Department into ‘alarmist’ and ‘SOS Jersey claim the beach is not safe for swimmers and dogs’ escapes us.
We did, however:
- Ask why the States are blaming the sea lettuce problem on sea-borne nitrates coming from France
- Quote States’ own data showing the excessive levels of nitrogen being discharged into the sea via the Bellozanne outflow at First Tower
- Acknowledge a new sewage treatment works is to be built (though this will not be ready for a few years) and that this will assuredly help the matter
- Comment that without a population policy, population will continue to grow, meaning the new sewage facility will reach capacity 20-30 years down the line
We are delighted the States are talking with Tony Legg of Jersey Sea Farms, looking at ways to help prevent the sea lettuce blooms, including both the interim measure of using specially ploughed furrows which would help sea lettuce taking hold and trials on the use of Jersey native oysters to bring down nitrate levels enough to avoid the tipping point at which blooms occur.
Links to supporting documents: http://sosjersey.co.uk/results-of-sos-jerseys-st-aubins-bay-survey/