More than 100 people living near Jersey Airport have been offered an undisclosed settlement to end a decades-long dispute over the poisoning of their water supplies.
A cancer-causing chemical - PFOS - was found to have contaminated the water supply as long ago as the 1980s after it was used by the Airport Fire Service in regular training exercises. The chemical soaked into the ground polluting an area from St Ouen's Pond to Le Braye, and contaminating boreholes.
Yesterday, a letter emerged from the Ports of Jersey Chief Executive Doug Bannister to the Treasury Minister, which was revealed during a States debate on the issue, offering to reach a settlement with the households and businesses who have been affected.
A PoJ spokesman today said: "A settlement package will be offered to both residential and commercial customers who have been affected on an individual basis and this will be a suitable contribution to water costs, plus a contribution if there are any water mains reconnection costs."
A copy of the letter from PoJ has been seen by Express, and in it, Mr Bannister writes:
“Ports of Jersey (PoJ) have been working through a program to reach conclusion on this decades old issue.
“I can confirm that PoJ will offer a settlement based on the original Council of Ministers direction in 2010 to those properties which have contaminated water supply and remain in ownership by the same people as at the time of the contamination.
“This settlement will be based on the property’s water usage and include a time period of 25 years.
“If any affected property owner is subsequently unsatisfied with the settlement offer we would agree to mediation to reach a conclusion with that owner."
The letter adds: “To date, PoJ have responded to all requests for dialogue and offered to meet the relevant property owner. We have had correspondence with a number of domestic residents and continue to hold an open door for dialogue.”
In 1985, a member of the public wrote to the airport stating that foam was present thirty yards from a well, but he was assured that only water was used in training to fight fires at the nearby airport.
Five years later another resident was told a sample of water was contaminated and that resident raised the matter with the Airport Director, who said he would try to trace the source of the contamination.
In 1993, the Airport Director admitted the airport had been responsible for the contamination, although the effects of the pollution was still unclear, but that 76 households and businesses had been contaminated.
In 2005, a report was commissioned by the Health and Social Services Committee stated that the substance found in the water was known as PFOS - Perfluorooctyl sulphonate - which the report concluded was unsafe and was also nearly double the 'safe' limit.
PFOS was used by the Airport Fire Service in fire training until 1995-6 and the substance found in the contaminated water was described as “persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic to mammalian species. Epidemiological studies have shown an association with PFOS exposure and the incidence of bladder cancer. Further work needs to be doe rot understand this association.”
The water rates for a number of customers have been paid for by the PoJ, who have also been supplying bottled drinking water.
The issue came up in yesterday's debate on the States financial plans for the next three years, after Deputy Kevin Lewis put in an amendment.
He wanted to guarantee the payment of water rates (or to cover the cost of supplying clean drinking water) would be met by the Treasury until the residents’ own water supplies were proven to be clean.
Deputy Kevin Lewis said: “The people, through no fault other own, have lost their pure spring water due to PFOS contamination from the airport. It is only natural justice that the airport, through the States, pays for water for residents. The residents are not asking for money, or special privileges whatsoever. They just want their clean, fresh water replaced.”
But that amendment to the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) was narrowly defeated.
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