A bitter dispute between an environmental pressure group and the Island’s Infrastructure Department hits the floor of the States Assembly again today.
Newly elected Senator Sarah Ferguson is asking the Minister whether the department has been exceeding its discharge limits for total nitrogen from the Bellozanne Sewage Treatment plant into St Aubin’s Bay and, if so, by how much and for how long?
SOS, Save our Shoreline, recently carried out a series of tests, and published a report in which it claimed the department’s release of nitrogen compounds from the plant were excessive and was encouraging the blooming of sea lettuce that has blighted the bay and for many has turned it into a green no-go zone.
The pressure group’s data prompted a swift and stinging response from the department: “It is a concern of the department that some of the [SOS] report conclusions are unduly alarmist and not supported by evidence. The evidence is certainly not at a level that we, as regulators and scientists, are required and expected to achieve in order to make decisions to protect the environment on the public’s behalf.”
Senator Ferguson is hoping to put an end to the claims and counter claims and is hoping for some straight answers from Deputy Eddie Noel. But, even if releases from the plant aren’t exceeding permitted levels there still remains the smelly question of how to clear the beaches.
Parts of Normandy have similar problems and the authorities there have developed huge harvesters that scoop up the “lettuce”. Deputy Noel had hoped to bring one of the machines over earlier this year for a trial, but the French couldn’t spare it because one of their other machines broke down leaving their remaining machines working flat out.
Environment Minister Deputy Steve Luce is also trying to help ease the situation by encouraging farmers not to use so much nitrogen-based fertilisers. It’s thought run-off is contributing to the problem.
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We at SOS Jersey have spent a huge amount of time and resources (at no cost to the public or the States) confirming the Environment Department’s OWN figures on the effluent discharges, paying for independent testing and also charting the growth of the lettuce which clearly stems from the 18 million gallons of met throughout the summer on our nitrate rich effluent pumped daily onto the beach. Our evidence is beyond doubt, and it is, we feel, unnecessary for the Minister to keep making these claims in the face of hard evidence.
We wonder why it is acceptable for a States Department to break the law daily when private individuals and businesses would be immediately taken to court and fined for pollution if they poured just a litre or so of pollutant down the drain? What is the point of having discharge permits in place if they are ignored? What is the point of having an Environmental Regulator at all if he can’t or won’t regulate?
St Aubin’s Bay is becoming unhealthier every year and the se lettuce is harming the economy. Nearly all the tourists we survey told us that they will not return.
Regarding the population issue, (the root cause of the problem) Deputy Noel recently told us that ‘here is nothing that can be done about the population.’ This is the nub of the problem and it is clear that the COM have no policy and don’t want one. Deputy Noel did not answer a question asked this morning on population policy. The COM continue to avoid this issue.