HC Deb 27 November 2003 vol 415 cc377-8W
Mr. Nicholas Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made in discussions between her Department and the Port of Tyne Authority concerning the dredging of the River Tyne and the disposal at sea of contaminated sediment; and what the present position is regarding the dredging and disposal. [140644]

Mr. Morley

The Port of Tyne Authority (PoT) applied for a licence in February 2003 to dispose of 315,123 cubic metres of sediment dredged from wharves within the port to the Souter Point disposal ground. Some sediments are contaminated with Tributyl-tin and heavy metals.

Defra and its advisers from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquatic Science (CEFAS) have met the PoT on a number of occasions to discuss potential disposal options. I met representatives of the port authority on 3 December.

On the basis of the currently available information, the levels of contamination are such that we would not be prepared to licence simple disposal of the sediments at sea. I also appreciate that land based disposal or remediation would be prohibitively expensive.

We have therefore suggested that:

  1. the PoT should carry out limited further sampling to (a) determine the characteristics of the sediment down to the proposed dredging depth and (b) more closely determine the extent of the most contaminated material. A sampling methodology is to be agreed.
  2. with assistance from CEFAS, the PoT should prepare a methodology for confined disposal (capping of the contaminated material with clear material) at Souter Point including a strategy for monitoring the effectiveness of this approach.

Subject to the results of this work, we would then be prepared to license the disposal of at least part of the amount applied for on this basis.