Calls for urgent action at Plaistow lagoon to prevent ‘potential devastation’

Councillor Gareth Evans
Councillor Gareth Evans

A councillor is calling for immediate action to prevent a large lagoon brimming with organic waste from collapsing and contaminating the local area.

Councillor Gareth Evans said it would be a ‘major chemical emergency disaster’ if there was a breach at Lagoon 3, which is located on land that was previously part of Crouchlands Farm in Plaistow.

The lagoon contains 53,000 cubic metres of digestate, a liquid and solid material which is the by-product of an anaerobic biodigester plant.

An Environment Agency spokesman has previously said it was not believed to be ‘hazardous waste’, but said there were ‘hazards that come with the waste’.

In a report last year, the Environment Agency said it was concerned about the ‘structural integrity’ of the lagoon – and said there was a risk the containment could fail.

Mr Evans said additional pressure was now being put on the lagoon from the ‘millions of gallons’ of rainwater that had collected on top of it following the recent bad weather, which he said was ‘adding significantly to an already dangerous situation’. He said: “There are fears that the water accumulating on top of the lagoon could provoke the lagoon collapsing and a major breach with potentially devastating consequences.

“The digestate liquid would then travel over the land and down the water courses to the rivers and the sea and would be a serious threat to properties, farmland and families living in the area, as well as to the river and marine biodiversity.”     

A spokesman for the fire service confirmed that a comprehensive and multi-agency ‘incident response plan’ had been put in place for the site, should it be required.

But Mr Evans said this was a ‘reactive measure’.

“It’s great that there is an emergency plan in place, but if it has to be triggered that’s because a disaster has occurred,” he said.

“From a resident’s perspective, they would like to see a proactive measure put in place to prevent something happening. There’s a lot of concern.”

He said he had asked the fire service to pump the water off the top of the lagoon to ease the pressure but said it had not committed to the request.

An Environment Agency spokesman said: “We have served a notice to the landowner to ensure they remove the waste in a way which protects the community and the environment.

“In the interim, the notice also requires the landowner to safely maintain the lagoon to prevent leakage of the waste.”

Chichester District Council said that while planning enforcement action had been taken against the owners of the lagoon to remove the material on the site, it would ‘take some time’ for it to be removed safely.

However a spokesman said it would work with partners to ensure it was achieved ‘as safely and quickly as possible’.

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