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Diver calls on Devonport Naval Base to stop dumping 'toxic sludge' off Whitsand Bay

By RebeccaRicks  |  Posted: December 11, 2013

Diver calls on Devonport Naval Base to stop dumping toxic sludge off Whitsand Bay

Whitsand Bay

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AN APPLICATION to continue dumping dredged material from Devonport Naval Base has re-ignited a campaign calling for an end to using a south west beach as the disposal area for "toxic sludge".

For years the Royal Navy has employed contractors to dredge the water around the naval base and other deep water locations in Plymouth to enable the clear passage of warships and submarines.

But in doing so, it has seen hundreds of thousands of tonnes of “toxic silt” dumped off Whitsand Bay – now a marine conservation site.

Divers, residents and beach lovers have fought against the use of the bay as a licenced disposal site but so far to little avail.

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Now the contractors, operating on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, have applied for another two year licence to keep dredging and dumping.

Dave Peake, leading the Stop Dumping in Whitsand Bay campaign, claims the material is contaminated with elevated levels of PAH (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons).

He said: “What they are dumping is quite toxic. It is of great concern and after diving in the bay you can see the impact it's having. Divers are avoiding the wreck there because the visibility is now so poor.

“This is 2013 not 1913 and they should be doing something else with it.

“The recent announcement of Whitsand and Looe Bay as a Marine Conservation Zone is a step in the right direction to protect this environment.

“The boundaries of the disposal areas and the MCZ are extremely close, and now is the time for the regulator MMO and stakeholders to take this into account, find an alternative, and immediately stop dumping in the beautiful Whitsand Bay.”

Mr Peake who has been a diver in the area for the last 50 years said it was no longer acceptable.

“It is not acceptable to the people who support Whitsand Bay. It’s not acceptable to divers or swimmers and it’s certainly not acceptable to the sea bed and marine life.

“I think people need to know what’s happening. They can object to what is going on.

“We are angry about the public notice that went in the papers. It didn’t say anywhere about where the materials would be dumped, people would get the impression it was staying in the dockyard.”

The last dredge took place on March 22 this year. In the application it predicts that 367,000 tonnes will be extracted over the two-year licence period.

The application also admits the proposed disposal site fell within a conservation area.

Boskalis Westminster Ltd submitted the application on behalf of the Naval Base.

A spokesman for HMNB Devonport said: “The dredging programme is for a programme of annual maintenance and the subject of a licence reapplication by contractors to maintain the operation of berths on behalf of the MOD in HM Naval Base, Devonport.

“The disposal site is chosen by the Marine Management Organisation through careful analysis.”

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  • ramehead  |  January 04 2014, 3:32PM

    The Bay is an area of outstanding natural beauty and a marine conservation area.It has been used as a dumping ground by the Dockyard for nigh on 100 years and has had 5.3 million tonnes of contaminated Tamar river sludge dumped there since the 80's and we still have to tip toe around this private company that now owns the Dockyard in case they move out!There needs to more questioning of the practices that go on behind the"wall" then perhaps our environment will become a more attractive place for people to enjoy and tourists to visit.

    Rate   -1
  • ItsMe2013  |  December 11 2013, 2:24PM

    The Brittany Ferries dump more PAH's into the water in a single month than the 'Dockyard Dredging' does in a year, and a BBQ'd burger contains nearly 5 x more exposure to PAH's in a single consumption than being within 3 miles of the dump site does in a year. These are all facts researched locally by our universities so the questions really are; Why do we hate the dockyard so much, if it was gone tomorrow Plymouth would go to waste, not to mention the jobs lost and revenue to the city. Why are not not petitioning to ban BBQ's and the Brittany Ferry? I think sometimes people want to find someone to blame without looking at the facts properly, and the press are always happy to help.

    Rate   1
  • Reeder  |  December 10 2013, 1:24PM

    Once, a long time ago, Whitsand Bay consisted of beautiful golden, soft sand now... it's more like builders sand containing more grit than anything else. I used to visit regularly but I haven't been for some time as it's just a tip for Devonport Dockyard and I won't go anymore. Please, if you're having to dredge the river Tamar to ensure safe passage for ships and subs, etc, dump it way out in the Channel. I'm not an expert but 50 miles may be OK.

    Rate   1