Tuesday, 12 September 2006

Response to Coatham protesters exaggerated claims

Printed below is a report issued to members of Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council by the Council's Chief Executive, Colin Moore. It is in response to the seriously exaggerated claims about contamination made by objectors to the Council's proposed leisure and housing development at Coatham Enclosure:

"Persimmon is being advised by experts in these fields and the advice they have received has been submitted to the Council as part of their planning application.

"Two separate but related issues need to be addressed here. There is the issue of contamination of the site as a whole and then the allegation of sand being removed that is two and a half times the safe level for mercury, lead and arsenic."

The Site as a Whole

"The issue of contaminated land is an issue for all developments throughout the country. Some degree of contamination is to be expected on all brown field sites. That is why a thorough examination of this site has taken place and a report submitted as part of the planning process. The issue then is the nature of remediation required.

"The examination done for Persimmon by Encia Consulting is thorough, detailed and highly responsible as should be expected from a respected national house builder dealing with public authorities.

"The first headline from the report is that there is nothing on this site that presents any danger to existing uses. The issue is with “made ground”, that is soil imported or existing reworked. It goes on to say “This made ground contains sporadic, slightly elevated concentrations of some metals including arsenic, copper and zinc. These are considered to present only a slight risk to the proposed development.” The report goes on to discuss the remedial work necessary for the development to go ahead. This will be implemented in the final scheme and independently scientifically validated

"In other words the whole site does not have contamination but only parts of it. Where there is contamination it is only slight. There is no danger to anyone walking across the site or playing golf. There is a slight risk to new residential development if remedial measures are not taken. The view of Persimmon is that this is one of the cleanest sites they have had to deal with.

"I will now go into the detail of exactly what is on the site.

"Out of twenty samples tested there was one finding of Arsenic at two and a half times the Soil Guideline Value (safe in layman’s terms). It was found at 2.6metres depth. It was in unusual soil of brick and ash. For this to be a danger to health you would have to dig down 2.6metres (8 feet 8 inches) and somehow eat the brick and ash. You would probably have to do this repeatedly to have any affect on health. The 95 percentile analysis of all samples is at 21.2 parts per million, or just over the Soil Guideline Value (SGV) of 20 parts per million, this is the measure used to assess whether the site is contaminated.

"There is only one sample where mercury is above the SGV at 1.4 metres depth and is way below the two and a half times level claimed. All other samples are well below mercury’s SGV of 8 parts per million.

"For lead there are two samples slightly above the SGV, one at 1.4 metres depth and the other at 2.6 metres depth being the same site of brick and ash as the arsenic anomaly. However when taken as a whole the concentrations encountered present negligible risk.

"In conclusion this leads to the best technical advice being that there is no danger to existing users and only a slight danger to a residential development, which can easily be remediated."

Removed Sand

"The key allegation is that McAlpines, in laying out a public footpath, have removed sand that is contaminated at two and a half times the safe limit for arsenic, mercury and lead. This is nonsense. Such inorganic contaminants as are known are well below the surface in made ground. They have only been identified in two locations over an area of 4.5 hectares (45,000 square metres). In addition the elevated concentrations were only found at depth (the shallowest being 1.4metres). There is therefore no basis for the claim that the sand removed is contaminated with arsenic, mercury and lead. The material removed by McAlpines is wind blown sand from the surface."


"One trial pit found one trace of one metal in one place at two and a half times the safe limit in deep unnatural soil. To extrapolate that into three metals being at that level in blown sand on the surface elsewhere on the site is an argument that cannot be sustained and is unscientific.

"There is no more significant risk to human health in the near surface deposits at Coatham than anywhere else on industrial Teesside and certainly not such as to require special measures in terms of its current use."

The report prompted the Leader of the Labour Group, Councillor George Dunning, to include the following in an email sent to all members of the Council: "I have to say on behalf of the Labour Group that we have had reassurances from top officers on the allegations of contamination at Coatham Common."

Also in an email to all members of the Council, Chairman of the Cabinet, Councillor Eric Empson wrote: "I am sure that my colleagues, and all right thinking Members of this Authority, are completely disgusted at the posturing and pontificating of people who have no interest in the future of Redcar and Cleveland."

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