It was on a misty morning last autumn that Grecko took his drone for a spin over Teesworks. Grecko, who prefers to remain anonymous, regularly films the demolition work at Teesworks, the old SSI steel plant on the southern bank of the River Tees. The site of 2,400 acres is the leading development location for the future Teesside Freeport – 4,500 acres of economic dreams conjured up by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.
Grecko’s video shows trucks transporting sludge from the South Bank Quay site to mounds just south of the river Tees. It is sediment from capital dredging to improve vessel access to the future SeAH wind turbine plant.
The material is the sediment ruled after sample testing from boreholes to be too toxic for dumping at sea. The results reported by consultants Haskoning for the Tees Valley Combined Authority, were above Cefas Action Level 2 – the Environment Agency’s ceiling for toxicity. The contaminants were: mercury, cadmium, zinc, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, arsenic, and PCBs (carcinogenic, human-made polychlorinated biphenyls which have been banned since the 1980s).
The toxins that registered at between Cefas Action Levels 1 and 2 were: hydrocarbons, organotins, and PAHs (especially naphthalene, fluoranthane, fluorene, pyrene and phenanthrene).
This is the toxic moonscape you are viewing in the video, being dried out before transfer to landfill. Its final destination will be one of several licensed landfill facilities on the theTeesworks site.
Environment Agency report
We alerted the Environment Agency who inspected the mounds last week. Here is their report in full:
“Dredged material which cannot be disposed of at sea is being brought ashore for drying ahead of being taken to a landfill site. The dredged material, when brought ashore, is too fluid to deposit straight into a landfill site as it will not form a stable waste profile. The material is not to be used as part of any permanent fill in future development projects.
“The material is being dried in an engineered storage area on the development site. The area is contained with a basal liner and a perimeter bund wall, both formed of a compacted clay. Rainwater and run-off within the area drains to a blind sump (also clay lined). The sump is emptied by road tanker as required and taken to a licenced treatment facility.
“The drying process is estimated to take three months but does depend on external factors such as rainfall and wind. At the point the material is suitably dry it will be removed from site and disposed of at an appropriately permitted landfill site. There is no treatment of the dredgings taking place, either with lime/cement or otherwise.
“Based upon our observations on site last week we are satisfied with the pollution control methods deployed during the handling of this material.”
All fine and dandy. And in stark contrast to scenes at the riverbank where sediment was dredged up without lids, allowing toxic sludge to tip back into the river. Our second video – of the dredging – was filmed from his boat by Hartlepool fisherman Stan Rennie whose livelihood was destroyed last year by the mass sea life die-off along the coast. The culprit was algal bloom, according to government agencies, or chemical pollution according to everyone else.
Observers say that the main mound was there before capital dredging began. There are also concerns that the dump is not far enough away from the river in the event of flooding.
The Teesworks land is still subject to COMAH – Control Of Major Accident Hazards, part of the HSE. Teesworks is classified as the more dangerous upper tier with contaminants described on COMAH’s register as “hazardous to the aquatic environment” and “toxic to aquatic life”.
In a report to the South Tees Development Corporation (STDC) meeting of 19 January, the Teesworks Group CEO announced:
“Accelerated land remediation and demolition activity leading to delivery in 2-3 years for work that was originally envisaged to take 10+ years.”
The remediation of Teesworks has so far cost £276mn of money from the public purse with the final bill expected to be £482mn.
* You can watch more of Grecko’s videos on his YouTube channel GreckoIndieMedia.