Well, the madness goes on. What century is Jersey in? Surely we know better than to let this happen? To find pout what’s afoot with the SoJDC’s latest development wheeze, the Horizon development, read on. We’ll keep all the updates on this page so you don’t have to search for them.
Click on the links below to go to the updates in question.
- 21 February – A mockery?
- 25 February – Will they ever learn?
- 26 February – Flooding update
- 11 March – Pollution and shocking admission
- 22 March – More flooding and more pollution of the marina
21 February 2019 – Are we seeing a mockery of Environmental Permits?
You may be aware that the States of Jersey Development Company (SoJDC) are developing the Horizon site on part of the reclaimed Waterfront area near the Radisson. You may also be aware that the entire reclamation area is highly contaminated. We have been keeping a close eye on the development.
Strict conditions (shown at the end of this post) apply to contaminated groundwater, which must be pumped out from the site, filtered through sand in special tanks and then pumped into a designated soakaway before it is allowed to go back to sea; the sea, in this case, is known as ‘controlled waters’.
But what happens when we get a high spring tide like this morning’s? The incoming sea quickly made the Horizon excavation resemble an Olympic size swimming pool, we must ask if these regulations are just plain absurd? We put ‘what water?’ on the photo, as some appear to think there is none.
Of course, the slightest puddle of rainwater that sits in the excavation must be pumped out of the site, filtered through sand and released through a special soakaway, so this morning SOS Jersey contacted the issuer of the relevant Permit (Head of Water Resource Management & Regulation) and enquired about the current permit with regards sea water.
At of time of writing, we are still awaiting a reply; we sincerely hope we do not get the same answer that we have heard before when querying a similar situation: that, as this is sea water, it can go back to the sea without being treated first.
Environment officers have in the past maintained that as the waterfront is tidal that the sea is exempt from control. Normally, deep below the Waterfront, the leaching of contaminants happens but very slowly.
However, once a building site creates a deep pit (particularly towards the seaward edge of the Waterfront), the tidal flow accelerates due to increased hydro-pneumatic forces and pushes up through the contaminated fill on the rising tide; it is sucked out again at equal speed.
During this time the seawater will pick up contaminants, which, in suspension or in solution, are taken out to sea. Not only is this simply just appalling, the currents can sweep contaminants around to our valuable Ramsar area.
SOS Jersey feels that, as the sea is designated ‘controlled waters’, these waters should be equally subject to regulation.
The fact that it is impossible to stop this happening and the harm that uncontrolled release of toxins into the sea, seems to escape those who plan these projects.
It also seems that States funded capital projects seem to be immune from being pursued by the Regulatory authorities as we have in the past evidenced.
We are monitoring the situation and report soon.
Here are the relevant conditions:
2.1 The Discharge shall consist solely of trade effluent comprising of treated groundwater arising from dewatering of groundworks at the Horizon development site.
2.2 All of the Discharge shall pass through a settlement tank and sand filter prior to the soakaway as described in the Groundwater Treatment System Method Statement.
3.1 The Discharge shall be made at the place specified as grid reference 41413 65478.
25 February 2019 – Will they ever learn?
‘In any other jurisdiction this project would have been shut down within 12-24 hours… but this is Jersey.” Andrew Le Quesne, Earth Project Jersey, (EPJ) speaking this afternoon on BBC Jersey for both EPJ and SOS Jersey.
SOSJ, working with The Earth Project Jersey (EPJ), have been investigating why contaminated seawater was allowed to escape to sea, after entering the excavations at the Horizon development.
The discharge permit was clearly breached and we have requested that further excavations cease until the contractors can demonstrate that they can contain and treat the flood water as the Discharge Permit dictates..
Picture left Andrew collecting a control sample from the Marina last Sunday. Right:Lara Luke with Dandara in 2011 testing a borehole on the same site in 2011, when Dandara were planning to build Castle Quay 2.
Dandara were keen to work with us to prevent seawater being contaminated and returned to the sea). It was not a secret that the tide would probably flood the basement level excavation. So why was the permit issued?
SOSJ have issued a complaint, which you can read here (PDF opens in new window/tab).
26 February – Flooding update
Yesterday, the Environment Department started an investigation into the Marina pollution incident which happened last Thursday. The 39 ft tide flooded the Horizon site up to the watermark visible in today’s photo. (See our earlier post for photos of the water in the pit.)
The seawater then flushed out material in the pit, and the resultant very discoloured leachate found its way into the north east part of the Elizabeth Marina, and eventually to sea.
(Photo courtesy of a concerned Castle Quay resident.)
We have been told that no information can be shared with us for legal reasons, so we are left to put together how the contractors aim to deal with the problem, having clearly been in breach of their Water Discharge Permit.
This morning, plastic sheeting is seen covering the area where the tide arises through the fill, and large rocks are being placed upon the sheeting to hold it down.
We believe that it may work to some degree now that the tides are falling away to neap tides, and maybe it will partly reduce the problem on the next spring tides which are not very high.
The test will come on 22nd and 23rd March when two tides exceeding 39 feet are predicted.
We will post information as we receive it.
11 March 2019 – More pollution and a shocking admission
For the second time in two weeks flooding of SOJDC’s Horizon site by a moderately high spring tide of under 35ft feet has occurred, despite recent efforts by the contractor to plug the hole through which the sea comes in.
Photos sent to us today clearly show the site flooded again with highly discoloured seawater which flushed in and out over the course of several hours taking contaminants from the site into the Elizabeth Marina and eventually to sea.
Last time this happened several residents contacted us; one contacted the Environment Department’s ‘hotline’. He spoke to an officer who did not seem very interested when the resident offered to send pictures of the flooding to him.
This is not the way we would have hoped the Environment department would respond.
The officer admitted that the Water Discharge Permit (which the developers have to abide by) does not come into effect until the site has been excavated, sealed with concrete and has dried out.
Only then does water on-site become of interest to the department. This is shocking.
The fact is that thousands of tonnes of polluted seawater are flushed out to sea on moderately high tides, taking contaminated heavy metals and other toxins with it.
This apparently seems to be quite okay.
SOS Jersey is monitoring the situation. Our members saw no officials on site yesterday but we could be wrong. Our offers to work with the Department have been rejected, so we will do the best we can with limited resources.
The next very large tides are due in under two weeks and we hope that the contractors will have worked out a way of sealing the site from the sea.
So far they have failed.
If it is acceptable to allow pollution of our waters by allowing a States quango to excavate huge amounts of contaminated soil on the waterfront, without having the engineering expertise in place to either stop water from entering site or capturing it before it leaves, then please can this be confirmed in writing by the Department?
Our pictures show the flooded Horizon site on Sunday morning (above) and the highly discoloured water of the Marina (below).
22 March 2019 – Horizon development flooded again, leading to contamination of marina?
Once again on the current 39ft spring tides, the sea is entering the polluted Waterfront sites and flushing out large amounts of thick leachate into the Elizabeth Marina.
Sediment settles onto the bottom and could be very harmful to marine life. The water then goes out to sea carrying residual pollutants with it.
Flooding of the Horizon excavation and subsequent discharges to the Elizabeth Marina first happened on 21 February 2019 and was reported by a resident to Environment on their hotline.
The responding officer initially shrugged it off as of being of no consequence, but later Department asked contractors to do something.
The contractors tried putting some geo-textile on the bottom of the hole to filter the sea water, but it failed to stem the silt from escaping.
We have previously warned the Department that this would happen on any Waterfront deep excavation yet they have allowed this to happen. As if this was not enough, the Water Discharge Permit that they issued is allegedly now not applicable until after the site is sealed and watertight!
The responsibility seems, therefore, to lie with the Environment Department to regulate correctly and not the contractors.
Today’s Jersey Evening Post (JEP) contains plenty of coverage – see screen shots below. It explains what we have done and what needs to be done, but the Department are silent, even not wishing to simply confirm that they took samples from the excavation and the Marina, both from the surface and the silt.
If the results were clear, they should say so now.
Next week sees Jersey hosting an International conference on Marine Protection. We hope that the delegates will be able to advise local officers on this matter as they seem out of their depth.
Paul Chambers, Marine and Coastal Manager at the Environment Department, said this:
‘We are very fortunate to be hosting this prestigious event,’ he said. ‘It gives Jersey the opportunity to highlight recent advances in the management of our marine environment, in particular the creation of marine protected areas covering parts of our coast and offshore reefs.
‘As well as being a signatory to the OSPAR Convention, Jersey has ratified the convention’s annex on the conservation and protection of key marine habitats. This, as well as having the Minquiers and Écréhous accepted as part of OSPAR’s Marine Protected Areas network, strengthens our links with the multinational organisation.’
The silence and inaction is not good enough and both must be remedied as a matter of urgency.
You can help by lobbying politicians; thank you. States of Jersey contact details are here.
Letter from SOS Jersey to the JEP
Horizon feature by JEP
With spring tides of over 39 feet expected this weekend, environmentalists have raised fresh concerns that the water which floods portions of the site – where 280 luxury flats are under construction – and is then left to drain back into the sea may be picking up contaminants from landfill used when the area was reclaimed decades ago.
The issue was first brought to light last month as the excavation of the underground car park coincided with high tides and the seawater filled the area.
Photographs and videos of the flooded site and of visibly murky water in the marina have been widely shared among Islanders and in the media.
Environmental groups believe allowing the water to drain into the marina untreated breaches the site’s discharge permit.
On 21 February, environmental protection officers said ‘they were looking into reports’ but one month later, as the site has again flooded, it is unclear what action, if any, has been taken.
In response to questions on what was being done, the JEP was told only that the ‘incident is still under investigation’ and officers ‘were unable to comment further’.
The States press office has confirmed that the incident is being investigated under the Water Pollution (Jersey) Law 2000.
The co-ordinator of Save Our Shoreline Jersey is now calling on Environmental Protection to tell the public what is happening.
The department is ‘failing in its duties to protect the public interest and the environment’, Dave Cabeldu wrote in a letter to the editor published on page 12 today. And he has highlighted the fact that the department is preparing to host a multinational environmental conference on marine biodiversity next week.
‘Jersey is a signatory to the OSPAR Convention and, as such, Jersey has agreed that it is illegal to discharge polluted material into the sea,’ he wrote. ‘The irony of the situation will not be lost on many observers.’
Mr Cabeldu – who recently received an MBE for his conservation work – said more should have been done over the last month.
‘Due to the urgency of the situation, the investigation should by now have been concluded and decisions taken as to how it could be mitigated,’ he wrote.
He said that this weekend ‘there will be two spring tides exceeding 39 feet which could flush out further thousands of gallons of potentially toxic leachate from the Horizon site into the sea via the Elizabeth Marina’.
SOS have questioned whether the water discharge permit issued for the site is sufficient to protect the surrounding area.
Under the terms of the permit, discharge from the site, including groundwater, should be passed ‘through a settlement tank and sand filter’ before it is allowed to soak away at specific designated points.