Jersey toxic waste crisis as ‘illegal’ mound rejected

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PLANS to increase the size of an ‘illegal’ and growing ‘mountain’ of waste dumped by the government at La Collette have been thrown out by the Planning Committee, prompting the Infrastructure Minister to go to the States instead.

Deputy Tom Binet said he was ‘inclined’ to agree with the committee that it should be a decision for the Assembly, and would be lodging a proposal ‘at the earliest opportunity’.

The Planning Committee – which rules on major and contentious bids for development – unanimously threw out the application to continue to create large headlands of hazardous waste south of the incinerator.

One member of the committee said the mound – which is visible from the south-east coastline as well as St Aubin – could become Jersey’s ‘Table Mountain’.

However, without any alternative site, contaminated waste will continue to be dumped there without planning permission.

Growing over two decades, a long 30m-high mound – made up of a series of lined pits of contaminated soil and ash finished off with inert building waste and topsoil – has been built on reclaimed land at La Collette.

Although, the government was given a permit in 1995 to create a headland north of the energy-from-waste plant, which was subsequently built and capped, the headland to the south has never received permission.

The Infrastructure, Housing and Environment Department now want to increase the height of this 30m mound, which has not had permission for more than 20 years, by another 11m.

If approved, it would have increased the headland’s height to 41m, which would be 12m below the height of the nearby energy-from-waste plant.

IHE not only applied to grow the existing eastern mound at La Collette but also create a new mound at the southern perimeter of the reclamation site.

The current headland contains 300,000m3 of contaminated soil and 40,000m3 of asbestos.

At yesterday’s Planning Committee hearing, a number of politicians said that the government was putting them in an ‘invidious position’, in that there was no other place for the Island’s hazardous waste to go.

St Clement Constable Marcus Troy said: ‘It is not our job to rubber-stamp unauthorised dumping over the last 20 years. There needs to be a waste masterplan. Our decision today needs to serve as an underline that we are not puppets.’

He added: ‘We are being put in an impossible situation. We need to explore what opportunities there are to export before we build Table Mountain in our backyard.’

Deputy Steve Luce added: ‘I have to say that I am really disappointed that we have been put in this invidious position.

‘This is probably the largest physical application ever come before this committee and if it was a building, we would never consider something of this scale on this site.’

The politicians were not only unanimous in their rejection of the application but also their call for a government plan and a States Assembly debate to determine how waste should be dealt with.

Deputy Mary Le Hegarat said: ‘It is disappointing that we are where we are. As an island, we need to make plans that we deal with our own waste rather than export it.’

Constable Deidre Mezbourian added: ‘I object to the fact that the government has for 20 years been illegally dumping at La Collette and we are here now to approve that. Where is the masterplan? Where is the long-term thinking?’

In rejecting the application, the committee urged IHE to submit a retrospective application – to gain permission for what has already been built – as quickly as possible.

It also recommended that the current mound does not get any higher until that application has been determined.

Following the decision, Deputy Binet said he was ‘disappointed’.

But he added: ‘However, I fully appreciate that the decision requested of the Planning Committee was quite momentous and it may have been too much to ask of them. They have indicated that it should really be a decision for the States Assembly, and I’m inclined to agree.

‘Accordingly, I’m looking to lodge a proposition for debate at the earliest opportunity and to arrange a briefing for States Members beforehand, so that they can be in possession of all the facts and implications. In the meantime, IHE is also looking to lodge an appeal to have the decision reconsidered.’

Deputy Binet said: ‘This is the only site in the Island permitted for such waste, and curtailing its use would bring much of the Island’s construction industry to a halt, in very short order.’

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