The probe into potential water pollution from the luxury Horizon development’s construction site is being treated as a criminal investigation and could result in a prosecution, the Environment Minister confirmed, as he revealed that there had been 81 other pollution incidents this year.
Deputy John Young made the comment in response to an urgent question from Deputy Russell Labey in yesterday’s States Assembly meeting.
His query was triggered by a government statement, which explained that its Environmental Team were looking into a “potential breach of the Water Pollution (Jersey) Law 2000” at the Jersey Development Company’s Waterfront site, following a call to the Environmental Protection Hotline in 21 February.
Pictured: There were concerns that pollution from the Waterfront construction site of the JDC's luxury Horizon apartment complex was ending up in the Marina.
Dissatisfied that more information had not been provided, however, Deputy Labey pressed the Minister to reveal further details on the results of testing conducted as part of the investigation, arguing that it was of “significant public interest”.
But Deputy Young declined on the basis that the evidence gathered could form part of a later prosecution.
The Minister said that any information obtained during the investigation will then be handed to the Attorney General, who will decide whether to bring charges against an individual or company.
However, Deputy Labey was firm that “the public deserve to know if a pollution incident has indeed occurred – not who’s responsible, but if one indeed has occurred”.
Deputy Labey’s comments echoed those of the campaigners who first brought the potential pollution to light – from the Earth Project and SOS Jersey – who, upon receiving Monday’s statement from the government, blasted them for “put[ting] up a wall of silence and… saying nothing at all”.
The Minister says the incident is being treated extremely seriously by officers. He reminds the #StatesAssembly that protocol for investigations of alleged criminality must be followed, therefore he regrets he can't give results of the tests #StatesAssembly— States Assembly (@StatesAssembly) March 26, 2019
“They will not even confirm that the specific testing we requested has been done,” Michael Du Pré and Andrew Le Quesne, writing on behalf of the campaign groups, said.
“The Department must have known for months what the effects of digging a deep pit on that site would be, and indeed, when flooding and pollution of the Elizabeth Marina was reported to their hotline on 21 Feb, the responding officer was not surprised, and did not ask for photographic evidence that the resident offered. After 10 years of warnings it is hard to imagine what they have to investigate?
“We are deeply concerned that following a series of very high tides, and further excavation works being carried out, that more damage to the marine environment has probably occurred with no meaningful response coming from the very Department whose job it is to protect the public and the environment.”
However, the Minister reassured yesterday that the situation was being taken “extremely seriously” by officers and was being treated as a “top priority”, with numerous water tests and site visits having been undertaken, and witness statements obtained.
Revealing that there had been 81 pollution incidents recorded so far this year alone – nearly one a day – the Minister added that there was a “significant question about how we’re regulating environmental pollution incidents”.
He said there was a “strong case” for a refreshed regime.
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