HC Deb 28 July 1982 vol 28 cc515-6W
Mr. Adley

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has decided to license the dumping at sea of the chemical waste imported by the Riafield company; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I have today agreed to the issue of licences under the Dumping At Sea Act 1974 to permit the aqueous phase of two consignments of this waste to be dumped in deep water in the Atlantic. No residual solid material will be dumped at sea. Three further applications, also relating to the aqueous phase, are still under consideration.

A number of reports have described this waste as toxic. My Department's scientists have carried out thorough tests on the aqueous material and are satisfied that it would break down rapidly in the ocean, presenting no significant hazard to fish or other marine life. However, the waste contains very small amounts—less than 5 pm—of certain organochlorine compounds and so could not be licensed for dumping without first consulting other contracting parties to the Oslo convention for the prevention of marine pollution by dumping from ships and aircraft. A consultation document, which included the test data relating to the first two applications, was therefore circulated to all contracting parties last autumn.

One country entered objections under the consultation arrangements. These have been discussed with the country concerned which is now content that the conditions under which the waste is to be dumped would not give rise to any environmental hazard.

More recently, one other country also registered similar objections. These objections were received some four months after the agreed deadline for comments and raised no new points of substance. These have been discussed with the country concerned which has agreed not to pursue them.

Information about the precise composition of the waste and the co-ordinates of the authorised dumping ground will be included in the Department's public register of dumping licences in the usual way. I have also arranged for a more detailed technical report of the test data to be placed alongside the register.