Jersey's mound of toxic waste “cannot be moved”, the Infrastructure Minister has said – as he was given a six-month window to tackle the island’s growing crisis.
Successive governments have failed to find a solution for the mounds of waste of La Collette, but Deputy Tom Binet has pledged to come up with a long-term plan within the next six months.
Last week, the Planning Committee opted to defer its decision to refuse a planning application which would have allowed the government to continue to grow piles of contaminated waste.
However, the dumping of toxic waste still does not have approval, and Deputy Binet admitted that the top of the current mound south of the Energy from Waste plant had been illegally constructed.
Pictured: Infrastructure Minister, Tom Binet.
Speaking to Havre des Pas residents recently, Deputy Binet said: “We have six months to come up with comprehensive proposals; this is a longstanding and complicated process, and it is our collective problem as a whole island.
“We have to accept that the headlands will stay there and be landscaped. It is awful stuff under there that cannot be moved. And in the greater scheme of things, it isn’t a bad place for it to be.”
Although the mounds have grown without the appropriate consent, the six-month deferral by the committee means that the Infrastructure Department will not be operating in contravention of a refused permission.
They will, instead, continue to add contaminated waste to lined pits which collectively form headlands.
The toxic waste issue is set to cause a major headache for the States of Jersey Development Company, with the Planning Department stating that it cannot support the firm’s major redevelopment plans for the Waterfront due to the current proposal to excavate contaminated soil there for basement parking will – which Planning say is too much to store at La Collette.
The problem has been exacerbated by years of ministerial inaction, which has been compounded by the fact that contaminated soil cannot be exported, a plan to store inert waste in a quarry in St Peter has not materialised despite the scheme having planning permission, and environmental standards were far laxer when toxic ash was dumped at the Waterfront in the 1980s.
Pictured: The JDC's Waterfront plans are under threat after the Planning Department said it could not support the scheme due to the need to excavate large amounts of toxic waste.
Discussing the dilemma facing JDC and the Government over plans to excavate contaminated waste at the Waterfront, David Cadeldu, who co-ordinates the campaign group SOS Jersey, said: “Given this conundrum, Jersey will have to either flagrantly continue to ignore its own planning laws and illegally accept this material at La Collette or Jersey will have to change the way developments are planned - there seems to be no middle ground.
“The creation of a new waste site on our limited land area would mean the creation of further landfill at either Havre des Pas or St Aubin’s Bay, and I cannot foresee planning permission being given to either for a number very good reasons.
“Should that happen, however, this would be at least a decade away and not solve the immediate crisis.”
For former Transport and Technical Services Minister Guy de Faye, who was in charge of infrastructure from 2005 to 2008, the clear answer to the issue of waste is just that: more reclamation.
Pictured: Former TTS Minister Guy de Faye
He said that the waste disposal issue should have “received a much higher priority from my ministerial successors” before stating that the “most sensible method” of tackling the problem is “further land reclamation”.
“The only serious way to preserve our surroundings in order to accommodate the increasing population is to ‘build more Jersey’,” he said.
Mr de Faye said that he had previously proposed a reclamation scheme for the east side of St Aubin's Harbour, drawn up by a local firm of architects.
Another former Infrastructure Minister, now-Constable Kevin Lewis, said that the Government needed to reopen negotiations with the UK over exportation.
Pictured: St Saviour Constable Kevin Lewis, who led the Infrastructure Department between 2011 and 2014 and between 2018 and 2022.
He said: “The basic problem is that one cannot export waste from the island, which has become more complicated after Brexit.
“The trouble is, if Jersey, say, exports its waste to France, that would be added to the UK total, so the UK were reluctant to let us do that, arguing that we should look after it ourselves.”
He added that he had explored a method of asbestos processing calling vitrification – which blasts it in small glass beads – but that it was “horrendously expensive and required an awful lot of power”.
Constable Lewis added: “No one wants to leave a heritage of contaminated waste for future generations. We had to put it at La Collette because there was no one else to put it.
“When I was minister, we also did a lot of work with AAL Langlois about mining existing inert waste for reprocessing, which is going on now. That did extend the life of La Collette.
“I’m afraid Deputy Binet is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It is an impossible situation. Another site has to be found but we have scale in the Island; we are only 9x5.
“It would be better to export it to a place which is geared up for storage and/or reprocessing into an inert material. So, we need to reopen negotiations with the UK. There are old quarries in the UK which are geared up to accept hazardous waste.”
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