Levels of lead at Waterfront site ‘alarming’, say UK group

HIGH levels of lead found in a seawater sample collected near the building site of the Horizon development are ‘alarming’, according to a UK group which monitors water pollution.

Flood water in the Horizon development at high tide Photo: John Baker. (24394159)
Flood water in the Horizon development at high tide Photo: John Baker. (24394159)

Last week, the JEP reported that a number of toxic heavy metals were found in samples of marina water collected by local environmental group Earth Project Jersey – including lead, iron, copper, arsenic and chromium.

EPJ chairman Andrew Le Quesne collected samples from the marina on 22 February and 21 March after water during high spring tides flooded the site and then drained back into the sea, raising fears the water could pick up toxic contaminants.

Mr Le Quesne also collected a control sample from an area of the marina which was unaffected by the run-off.

When tested by the States Official Analyst’s Laboratory, a number of heavy metals were found in the sample collected on 21 March – including lead, which was at least six times as high as in the control sample, and iron which increased 234 fold. Copper, zinc, arsenic, chromium and manganese were also found in the test sample at lower concentrations.

Water Pollution UK, which runs a website dedicated to informing people about the dangers of water pollution and what can be done to combat it, looked at the report on the samples at the JEP’s request.

Their scientists said the lead concentration was far too high.

‘Lead concentration in water should be below 15 parts per billion, and your test is showing 64,’ they told the JEP.

‘This is a metallic element and can cause health and environmental problems,’ the Water Pollution UK website warns. ‘It is a non-biodegradable substance so is hard to clean up once the environment is contaminated. Lead is harmful to the health of many animals, including humans, as it can inhibit the action of bodily enzymes.’

The group also warned that mercury may well be present in the sample, as the testing did not screen for it.

‘The usual issues are lead and mercury, and since the lead is very high, there’s a chance mercury could be there as well,’ they warned.

States Analyst Nick Hubbard has confirmed that mercury testing was not requested during the first tests but could be undertaken at the States lab.

Mr Le Quesne said he had another water sample collected from the marina where the run-off of the tidal flood water re-enters the sea and he would ask that mercury be included among the tests.

EPJ and Save our Shoreline have been calling for work on the 280-luxury-apartment development to be stopped to protect the environment but to date, work has been allowed to continue while an investigation is taking place into the alleged pollution.

Environmental protection officers have been investigating for over six weeks and have been taking their own water samples to monitor for toxins.

‘The department hopes to conclude its work over the next few weeks,’ a States spokeswoman said yesterday. ‘Information would then need to be submitted to the Attorney General, so it is not possible to give a definitive timescale for the public release of any information.’

She could not confirm whether mercury was being tested for as part of the investigation. However, the heavy metal is among 13 substances which were covered by the discharge permit issued to the French contractors undertaking the build.

Under the terms of the permit, water collected on the site should be passed through a settlement tank before it goes to a designated soakaway on the site.

Local environmentalists have said the failure to take more definitive action over the alleged pollution demonstrated that government cannot police itself on environmental matters.

The Horizon development is a States-backed project through the Jersey Development Company. However, all the work is being handled by outside contractors.

SOSJ and EPJ have called for an independent regulator to be set up.

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