Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Roger Gale Steve Ladyman the drains and Manston Airport

The front page article in The Isle of Thanet Extra today is about ground water pollution here in Thanet, with comment from our two MPs.

Reading the article it was obvious that although both MPs had attended a meeting with the environment agency about ground water quality but didn’t really understand the problems properly.

This is essentially about five different types of drain and understanding the differences between them.

1 Foul sewers these lead to a waste treatment plant, the water and effluent from these is treated and the treated water then goes into the sea.

2 Soakaways, these are often roadside drains the water from these soaks into the chalk, which also forms our drinking and agricultural water reservoir, some of these have interceptors that remove any fuel or oil spillage (how effective they are depends on their size relative to the size of the spillage and how well they are maintained) some of the don’t have interceptors.

3 Direct discharge into the sea, once again these are mostly roadside drains some with and some without interceptors.

4 Septic tanks these are mostly attached to rural properties and are emptied by the council the effluent being taken by tanker lorry to the treatment plant, the problem with these is that many of them leak, either by accident or design. Having them emptied is expensive so people sometimes make a hole in them so they don’t have to be emptied so often.

5 Private treatment plants such as Pfizer has and China Gateway wanted to have, these use bacteria and sedimentation to process the effluent the processed water is then either discharged into the sea or soakaways. Where China Gateway came unstuck is that discharge into soakaways on the water source protection zones is not allowed.

Roger Gale appears to think that industrial developers and the airport don’t play a significant part in the ground water problem, he is quoted in the article thus: “…it isn’t necessary to fault big business or the airport; it’s all down to us.”

The pollution problem that the environment agency faces is that the quality of the ground water is low and this is mostly caused by a great many small leaks and spillages.

The other problem that they face is that we are around the point where any more concreting over the source protection zones means that there will not be enough surface area for the rain to soak into to provide us with sufficient water supply.

Because of the various large pollution incidents like Thor and Sericol the amount of underground water that we can use has become greatly reduced and is concentrated around Manston.

This leads to the problem of what we can get away with at Manston both in terms of airport and industrial expansion, which poses the question how much more dare we concrete over? And the question of how much risk is acceptable in terms of a pollution incident there?

As far as the concreting, the environment agency needs to set defined limits to how much more there can be so that the airport and the industrial developers there know where they stand in terms of expansion.

Most importantly though is the problem of how the risk management is assessed for a fuel spillage caused by an aviation accident, having spoken to a lot of people that understand aviation a worst case scenario would be something akin to the recent air accident at Narita international airport, near Tokyo.

By this I mean an air crash on the grass part of the airfield where the fuselage of the aircraft runs over the wing that contains the fuel tanks rupturing them. The 747s flying to and from Manston can carry 50,000 gallons of fuel so a spillage of 20,000 gallons would not seem out of the bounds of probability.

Although there are many variables we need a clear cut answer from the environment agency as to what quantity, for both types of aviation fuel, would cause irredeemable damage to our essential water supply and to restrict the airports operations accordingly.

I noticed in the article Steve Ladyman said that the risks at the airport were being managed properly, however at the moment the main runway has no fuel interceptor, the contingency plan being to turn off the valves from the drains and contain a fuel spillage on the runway.

In reality with a plane on fire with people inside I wonder would they really stop the fuel from running away? So we really need an assessment of the maximum amount of fuel that should be carried by aircraft using Manston, until the interceptor is installed.

Of course there will always be a risk that our underground water supply will be irreversibly damaged by an air crash and I am afraid it would probably be the end of most of the agriculture in Thanet including Thanet Earth, it would also lead to greatly increased water bill for us. What this is about though is acceptable risk management and in the current economic climate with a doubling of unemployment in Thanet during the last year local industry badly needs to know exactly where it stands in terms of future expansion and future limitations on existing levels of operation.


  1. Thanks Micheal, a useful idiots guide.

    Talking of which, I heard Gale on the radio saying the problem was down to us, by, for instance, tipping paint thinners down the toilet. Now that isn't the right thing to do but it isn't getting into the groundwater so he's being disingenuous.

    To be honest I got a bit riled by both MPs since neither of them mention sericol or thor, instead blaming the residents. I mean, the bloody cheek of it!

    They appear to be shoulder to shoulder - I wonder why?

  2. An excellent post Michael.

    You are aware of reasons that the MPs may be shoulder to shoulder but I will leave it to you to introduce it to Thanet more fully than I will explore below on your blog when and if you deem it appropriate.

    At this time neither MP is listed as an Interested Party in the High Court preaction proceedings of which you are aware. Nor have they been publicly named on obligatory Common Law Information. But that might change.

    Ladyman was challenged by me, via Gazette letters if I recall, about THOR and whether its history informed him to know the situation concerning Saddam's WMD. This challenge was before we invaded Iraq.

    If I recall correctly (and I may have to trawl Gazette archives at the library) Thanet Socialist Worker Party made a somewhat irate response.

    If I recall correctly the Thanet SWP declared their IRA supportive position in their published letter.

    If I recall correctly Ladyman elected silence.

    And at issue now is, amongst other things, one James SHORTT bogus SAS instructor who used Deal Barracks gym from 76 to 82.

    Kent Police seem to have suddenly dropped inquiry. What about Mr SHORTT and Wouter BASSON and Porton Down and Thor in South Africa. And the role of BASSON in what we now know were bogus claims that Saddam had WMD ...

    Get googling if you want to find out for yourselves people.

    Just remember that Ladyman was asked six years ago and elected silence. Maybe we should not be surprised that Thor is not a name which would appear easily on his lips ?

    Then there is Sericol. Failing to report to police re alleged forged qualifications and documents by forgers who used Sericol technology. Well now we know that Sericol was covering up a huge tonnage of cyclohexanone they leaked over decades to aquifer.

    That is to do with Deal Barracks security issues and the 1989 IRA bombing there. A Kent Police inquiry which somehow exempted a certain Mr James SHORTT .....

    I know let us blame someone who puts their stolen cyclohexanone down the loo ....

  3. Why bother listening to politicians? They are amongst the most dishonest, hypocritical, minipulative people on the planet. They hear what they want to hear and say what they want us to hear!

    Perhaps Sericol and Thor have paid in several thousand pounds to their local parties or their bosses belong to the same lodges as these two herberts!

  4. The problem they have is that things weren't done properly in the first place. Everything is in place for a major incident/tragedy followed by the mother of all law-suits. The environmental impact should have been assessed right at the outset (by law). This wasn't done. As a consequence, things have been put into the local plan without knowing whether they were practicable or feasible. Infratil has been led to believe that almost unlimited expansion is feasible. This may not be the case. Sadly, the EA has been very lax on this. They've rattled the cage a few times but they haven't confronted the beast.

  5. You tell them Michael, dont think Roger Gale was ever big on detail!

  6. The level of ignorance in that article was a little worrying, Michael and well done, yet again, for highlighting the issues clearly.

    What TDC needs to consider, as it is way behind on this issue, is that is long overdue to actually inform the people of Thanet, through info in Press Releases or its little magazine, that we are all living on a water catchment area and a simple list of Do's and Don'ts to every household is needed based on EA advice. The rural roads around Birchington/Manston/Westgate all need sign posting, as in Germany, that people are entering a 'Water Catchment Area' and that care is needed to avoid.......etc! The average person in Thanet has no clue about Thanet's aquifer and the need to protect it and TDC has a duty to make them aware. Its obsession with the visual environment in urban areas (votes?) has diverted its Environmental Services 'bods' from the far more serious long term pollution going on to the underground aquifer.
    If the drains full of silt on Shottendane Road, Manston Road and Woodchurch Road are anything to go by, KCC Highways clearly do not understand the sensitivity of these areas either.
    TDC needs to look at water run-off from Reclamet into fields opposite due to blocked and inadequate drains, at the centre of an SPZ!

  7. Fascinating article Michael.

    A lot of very murky dots are slowly beginning to build a picture.

    I've only been here for a few years so the more information you can get out there, for peole like me, the better. Is there an aerial-graphic that shows the physical footprint of the aquifier? If not, could you dummy one up and post it?

    The whole Thor/Sericol/Manston issue needs to be simplified because if what I'm understanding is correct, this story (the whole narrative) is long overdue some interest from some heavy-weight investigative journalists.

    Great work.


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