Dredging row as ‘black sludge’ pumped into Peel bay

The dredging pipe, built to clear the silt from Peel Harbour discharges into the bay

The dredging pipe, built to clear the silt from Peel Harbour discharges into the bay

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A Peel commissioner has spoken of his outrage after witnessing ‘black sludge’ being pumped off the end of the town’s breakwater.

The material was pumped into the bay by a newly installed pipe which carries silt being dredged from the harbour to the breakwater.

As previously reported, the harbour marina is currently being dredged with the operation scheduled to be completed by the end of May.

Commissioner Ian Davison said: ‘I saw this black sludge being pumped out and couldn’t believe my eyes. I have spoken to people concerned about allowing their children to even walk on the sand, never mind swim in the sea.

‘The marina should not have been allowed to get in this state in the first place,. But as usual the government always put off until tomorrow what should have been done today.

‘There are major environmental concerns over this sludge as it is shown to contain high heavy metal content and I am sure, added to the sewage [which is also pumped into Peel bay, untreated], will only make the beach worse.

‘They would have been better to have pumped this out via the back of the breakwater in the gap by the castle and the breakwater structure, this way it wouldn’t have been visible and it would have dispersed quicker and not back on to the beach.’

Mr Davison also said that he had heard that crab fishermen were ‘apparently very annoyed as they have their crab stock pots, which are holding crabs and lobsters in the bay and they are concerned about their stocks becoming affected by the sludge and contamination’.

He added: ‘It’s something that we will need to keep a close eye on as commissioners as we have a duty of care to the people of Peel whom we represent.’

Director of ports Ann Reynolds responded to the criticism. She said: ‘The department [of Infrastructure] is very aware of the need to maintain the Peel marina at full capacity and is now dredging to ensure this remains the case. This work is part of a wider package of works to remove the few dilapidated boats, plus further improve the signage and general service around the harbour.

‘The department has been in communication with boat owners in Peel, Peel MHK Tim Crookall and the Manx Fish Producers’ Organisation, among others, and is grateful for all the assistance given by all concerned.’

Mrs Reynolds added that, working with the Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture, the two departments had agreed to 4,000 tonnes being removed using the backhoe method and 6,000 tonnes being piped out over the breakwater on an ebb tide.

She also said that DEFA had a long-standing agreement with the DoI that major dredging should take place between January and the end of May and that sampling of the silt would produce data used for the rate and timing of future operations.

‘Prior to the dredger starting pumping over the breakwater, the department’s divers made some exploratory dives so it can be easily determined if deposits start to form from the pumping and to also ensure that the works do not affect the nearby sewage outfall pipe,’ explained Mrs Reynolds.

‘Starting this year, the DoI will remove a significant amount of silt over the next three years and once this initial backlog of silt has been removed, then the DOI will look to remove silt on an annual cyclical maintenance basis.’

Friends of the Earth secretary, Cat Turner, said: ‘We very much hope proper advice was taken before this disposal was carried out.

‘The whole area is, of course, an important and sensitive one in terms of the marine ecosystem.

‘In a year when the government has recently set out its strategy for protecting and prioritising its precious range of local biodiversity, which is clearly so important to the environment, economy and quality of life, it would be perverse in the extreme to permit dredging and disposal without first taking account of the effects on species and habitats in the area.’

Peel MHK Tim Crookall could not be contacted for comment.

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