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Pollution claim could lead to prosecution

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ALLEGED pollution at the Horizon development on the Waterfront could lead to a criminal prosecution, Environment Minister John Young has said.

Flood water in the Horizon development during a high tide in March. Photo: John Baker. (24249738)

Briefing the States Assembly on the matter on Tuesday, Deputy Young said an investigation had been launched by environmental protection officers on 21 February following a tip-off from the public.

He said a ‘full investigation’ was under way, under the Water Pollution (Jersey) Law and that potential evidence was being collected that could be passed to the Attorney General.

Environmental groups raised the alarm last month over the possibility that contaminated water, which collected at the building site for 280 luxury apartments during very high spring tides, was being allowed to drain back into the sea untreated.

Save Our Shoreline Jersey and the Earth Project Jersey have both been vocal critics of the Environment Department since it came to light that seawater, from tides exceeding 35 feet, was flooding portions of the site on land reclaimed decades ago.

The Environment Minister referred to the Waterfront as a ‘known source of contamination’ and said he expected the investigation to address why sufficient environmental protections were not put in place before building was allowed to start.

‘It is known the high tide is coming through that site every day,’ he added. ‘Everybody doing any construction below ground was obviously going to hit these problems.’

Deputy Young also said he understood protections were being put in place ‘retrospectively’.

‘But I am afraid if there has been contamination into the marine environment, that contamination has happened,’ he said.

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While Horizon is a Jersey Development Company project, French contractor Groupe Legendre is undertaking the building work.

All States Members were invited to a JDC presentation on Monday which included discussion about the alleged pollution issues, according to St Brelade Constable Mike Jackson, who attended and said there seemed to be some dispute about ‘the level of pollutants down there’.

Environmental protection put out a statement in response to JEP questions, saying no further comments could be made for fear of prejudicing the investigation.

‘A full investigation is being undertaken, including sampling of water quality,’ the statement, issued through the communications team, said.

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‘This is an ongoing investigation and, as with all criminal investigations undertaken by government regulators, a strict protocol is adhered to. This means officers cannot share information, or answer any questions, relating to the case with third parties, whether they be pressure groups, the public or the media.’

The statement suggested environmental groups who brought their concerns to officers were aware that the process was ongoing.

But SOSJ and EPJ say environmental protection had failed to act with any urgency and to protect the environment and that they had hoped to hear more was being done.

‘We find that in fact the department have instead put up a wall of silence and are saying nothing at all; they will not even confirm that the specific testing we requested has been done,’ SOS Jersey chairman Michael du Pré and EPJ chairman Andrew Le Quesne said in a joint response.

‘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 February, the responding officer was not surprised, and did not ask for photographic evidence that the resident offered.

‘After ten years of warnings it is hard to imagine what they have to investigate?’

The lobby groups added that work seemed to have continued unabated on the site despite the investigation.

‘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,’ the environmental campaigners added.

The two groups have also written a letter to all delegates of biodiversity committee of marine environment protection commissions OSPAR – which is in Jersey for a week-long conference – to make them aware of their fear that contaminants may be getting into Island waters as a result of floodwaters on the site being allowed to drain naturally into the sea.

Tania Targett

By Tania Targett
Journalist

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