The 13th day of the inquiry began with a brief continuation of the discussions regarding Section 106 Agreements and Conditions *.
This was followed by the examination in chief of Buckfastleigh Community Forum’s final witness Hannah Fraser. Hannah Fraser is director of H Fraser Consulting Ltd, has 16 years’ experience as an environmental consultant, with a broad range of experience in mining and quarrying hydrogeology, contaminated land assessment and remediation, human health and environmental risk assessment, environmental impact assessment, and groundwater resource assessment and development. She is a Fellow of the Geological Society and a Chartered Geologist. Ms Fraser’s professional qualifications and experience can be found here.
Ms Fraser was instructed to compare and contrast her conceptual model with that of Mr Robinson’s model. Considering the possibility of both models Ms Fraser favored the model she had used due to greater research, higher quality model and site specific evidence behind it. Concerns were raised about Mr Robinson’s lack of data regarding quantities and quality of groundwater and the contested issue of location of limestone in the quarry and it being connected to the dolerite.
A general theme to the evidence was that far more detailed and site specific investigations needed to be done in order to obtain a more accurate picture of this site, such as quality and quantity of groundwater and drilling to establish a baseline groundwater table, where the groundwater actually is and the actual geography. MVV’s consultant Mr Robinson provided little site specific data, particularly no drilling data so that everything below the surface is conjectural.
Ms Fraser gave evidence that drilling is extremely common in waste management activities where there is a sensitive hydro-geologic element. The maps used by Mr John Robinson for MVV are not good for this sort of detail; it’s not their purpose. Drilling, which has been done in similar facilities in the area, must be done and is important. Mr Robinson should have, could have, undertaken drilling to get the data.
With regard to the setting being sensitive, Ms Fraser stated that limestone is classified as a principal aquifer and the Dean Burn – these are both sensitive receptors. Her evidence identifies limestone and dolerite linked together by fractures and a lot of springs and seeps and flows. This is from her observations of fractures and seepages from her visit to the site. In her professional view to treat them hydro geologically as separate, as Mr Robinson does, is nonsense. She said they are linked together by fractures, and limestone is soluble so there might be larger fissures and fractures.
There will be means by which groundwater can flow into quarry and contaminants can move through water into the Dean Burn. Irrespective of capping. Which led to Mr Charlie Hopkins questioning Hannah Fraser on the permeability of the dolerite.
In Mr Robinson’s evidence the dolerite was dismissed as being almost impermeable, hence the use of the ‘bucket’ model, i.e. when it rains the capped quarry will hold the rainwater like a bucket. Ms Fraser disagreed with such an idea, suggesting it was highly likely both the dolerite and limestone are connected through fractures. In addition, she pointed out that Mr Robinson’s low measure of permeability of the dolerite is not a particularly low permeability – there are many secondary aquifers with similar permeability numbers. Even at the low end of low to moderate permeability rocks, they are important to local flow and can support 1000’s of cubic meters per day.
Given local concerns of affect on boreholes, Mr Hopkins then asked Ms Fraser how water behaves this situation. She replied this creates unpredictability in terms of groundwater flow due to lacking information about such fracture networks and locations of fractures. Flows tend to be quick in response to rainfall. Regarding the groundwater response, she has seen borehole hydrographs that can give different responses in different wet and dry conditions; it will interact differently, certain sections will fill up in wet conditions. It’s incorrect to think of water simply flowing from uphill to downhill ***. It can be difficult to characterise, especially due to neither assessment of the water levels nor a comparison between rainfall records with the pump rates at the quarry in order to establish the groundwater flow. Need pumping rate to see if pumping more or less rainfall into the quarry.
MVV has not provided information about the size of the material or the compaction. Ms Fraser said this would affect the amount of water in the quarry void – no matter which model is used – the amount of water will depend on the size of the gaps between the particles. When asked about the solubility of the dolerite itself, she replied that igneous rocks have high concentration of metals but don’t know how they would leach out because it would depend on the surface area of the rock, size of rock and porosity.
Ms Fraser went on to raise concern about the proposed contents of the quarry infill having a potential hazardous nature, and the danger of this getting into the water table, which could allow this to flow from the quarry to sensitive receptors. According to Mr Miles’ evidence for MVV, the infill is proposed to be Construction & Demolition Waste (what is left after the valuable saleable materials have been separated from it). Mr Miles said depending upon supply, this could be up to or longer than 5 years, and it would be capped when brought up to 60m AOD (Above Ordinance Datum). Ms Fraser stated that rainfall would infiltrate the void and percolate whatever waste material is there and go down into the dolerite.
Ms Fraser expressed serious concern about the waste types to be accepted – all the type have mirror entries ** – can be hazardous depending on whether they contain dangerous substances. Yes, there are standards and criteria, but these aren’t particularly comprehensive and the waste types about to be accepted – there are many categories of contaminants that wouldn’t be captured in waste acceptance criteria – could contain materials inappropriate to be put in void.
Also, Ms Fraser pointed out that this could be at sub-water table level. Importantly, she stated that the proposal looks like a landfill operation.
For this reason she was surprised of the Environment Agency’s position; concluding that the removal of risks had been inadequate and unacceptable. Standard practice had not been adhered to, and without a baseline flow established it would be impossible to say what the impacts would be. She stated that the Environment Agency usually call this type of infill of inert material as landfill. Landfill on a principle aquifer is usually not a good idea and would need very high level of risk assessment.
Sub-water table landfills are not permitted at all. She stated that this is actually a sub-water table landfill that’s being called recovery.
Mr Hopkins reminded Ms Fraser that MVV’s view is once the quarry is capped there will be no reason to keep pumping because their plan is a closed loop system. To which Ms Fraser replied there are seepages in the quarry void. Mr Hopkins asked, below 60m AOD? Yes, fractures and seepages, and there is nothing in MVV’s proposals to stop that mechanism – every time it rains rainfall will percolate between fissures and end up in sub-cap area.
She expressed her concern that there was no attempt to see the water quality in the lagoon re dissolved chemicals. Mr Robinson said sedimentary settling is to largely deal with it, but would need to know if a need for a reed bed. Need to know more about leachate supernate- recycled through IBA. That’s a reactive process; that is of concern. It’s not clear water and when the lagoon will discharge, then settlement tanks. If they don’t know the quality it might have hazardous chemicals in it.
Potential contaminants are Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons – quality standards for this are of the order of .03 micrograms/L. These are really low and difficult to achieve quality standards. What are the circumstances when lagoon to discharge – under high rainfall. The factors of dilution are needed to get to the standards but this is without knowing the starting material.
Mr Hopkins asked if this is covered under Environmental permitting. Ms Fraser replied, one would hope so, but what chemicals are included in the Environmental Permit is an open question. A rigorous monitoring and sampling process would be needed in the Environmental Permit. Discharge consent is being seen as the first line of defense; should be the last line of defense. To add to the matter, it was again confirmed the settlement tanks are within Flood Zone 3. She thinks there is a change of use – the nature of the discharge has changed – the key point is the nature of the water can be very different.
In addition she said it is inappropriate to classify the settlement tanks as water compatible development because it’s trying to settle something out that’s not compatible with the water table. She would classify it as a form of waste treatment. However without data she is unable to say if the sludge is hazardous or not; that would make it more vulnerable and require an exception test, which wasn’t undertaken by MVV.
Mr Hopkins then led Ms Fraser to the conclusion in the summary proof – do the proposals fail test. She replied, yes, one test is whether you’re using waste in place of another material and inadequate assessment of risks to water environment. The setting is sensitive. It’s not enough to walk around and take a look at it. There can be more than one view that can be had of the geology. There is a definite need for more quantitative data – quality of lagoon discharge, leachate, flow of Dean burn, flow of pumping, groundwater flow, etc. It’s standard practice to get numbers and to get site specific information, and to come up with number and to say this is how we think it works. Then come up with mitigation measures. You need to get baseline, which they haven’t done, and without this you cannot asses the impact, therefore the mitigation requirements cannot be drawn up – does not do the job it should do.
Next came the cross examination of Hannah Fraser by Mark Westmoreland Smith, whom attempted to justify the MVV’s conceptual model by stating both models were merely professional judgment. Discussions moved on to the position of the Environment Agency regarding the development, Hannah Frasier expressed concern that their full knowledge as to the plan’s details could be questioned. Not enough evidence/data was provided, for example no pumping rates. Mr Westmoreland Smith identified that Mr Robinson said the pumping is intermittent, and if there was groundwater it would need more frequent regular pumping, and that water doesn’t flow uphill. Ms Fraser disagreed – once water rises to sump it will be pumped. All that’s needed is the pumping capacity to be higher than inflow; it won’t need to be continuous. The Environment Agency weren’t shown the daily pumping rates.
Ms Fraser raised the issue of how much control the Environmental Permit will have over what is done on site and what will happen in the event of the permit being breached as there is no current baseline to measure the increased activity against. The cross examination was followed by a short re examination by Charlie Hopkins, and a few questions of clarification from the Planning Inspector. He referred to the note from the Environment Agency about recovery plan, the process for an Environmental Permit, whether it would be considered recovery or disposal and asked would a separate assessment be done.
The afternoon session consisted of local residents statements, beginning with Neil Smith. Comparisons were drawn with the recent banking scandal and the way sustainable development is dealt with through the planning process. Despite processes being conducted in a legally correct manner, loopholes in the law bend framework in a way that shouldn’t be considered correct or ethical, amounting to regulatory arbitrage. He stated the real reason to use the site was that MVV views it as a void to dump waste into, and not only this, the economic viability of IBAA as a product was questioned. Additionally the contentious issue of alternative sites was highlighted and the reasoning – or lack of – for the withdrawal of previously available alternatives.
After Mr Smith, Dr Jean Harris Hendrix presented evidence in support of Professor Drey and Dr Rogers, suggesting mitigation is not the answer. That the development would have detrimental impacts on the mental health of children, and future generations needed greater consideration.
Following this Dr Larch Maxey from the Totnes based Network of Wellbeing spoke on sustainability, pinpointing that sustainable development must be socially, economically and environmentally sustainable, with the proposed scheme meeting none of these requirements.
Next spoke Tim Stacey who began by discussing that the development would not support the significant efforts by the local people to move away from the town’s industrial past and instead seek to develop jobs in the tourist industry; these would be jeopardized significantly if appeal was allowed. He then moved on to address that the nature of all the sites conducting similar activities to those proposed were all based in almost identical, flat, industrial areas, indicating a huge difference between the nature of currently operating sites and the appeal site proposed. Further, this lead to discussion of the unusual thermal activity and how this hasn’t been accounted for in the modeling processes.
Finally Leaf Lovejoy spoke as a representative of Stoke Gabriel. Ms Lovejoy raised many issues relating to the proposals and expressed the problems with how the information of the plans had been given in a bit by bit process which hasn’t allowed for the consultation and involvement of other local communities.
Hannah Fraser’s submissions marked the end of Buckfastleigh Community Forum’s evidence.
Tomorrow consists of further site visits in the area as well as further afield. Time has also been set aside tomorrow to allow for closing statements to be written which will be presented on Friday morning, after which the inquiry will close.
* Section 106 Agreements & Conditions are also known as planning obligations. They are agreements between developers and local planning authorities that are negotiated as part of a condition of planning consent. The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 enables local authorities to negotiate contributions towards a range of infrastructure and services should planning be granted. Planning obligations can be positive (requiring a specified action to be taken before the start of a development), negative (preventing development from taking place until a specified action has been taken by the developer) or restrictive (restricting how the development may be used by the developer). North Devon Council has a good explanation and further details on their website.
** To find out what is meant by ‘Mirror Entry’ there’s a reasonably clear explanation of Assessment of Hazardous Properties on the University of Edinborough’s website.
*** Groundwater does not always flow in the subsurface down-hill following the surface topography; groundwater follows pressure gradients (flow from high pressure to low) often following fractures and conduits in circuitous paths. Taking into account the interplay of the different facets of a multi-component system often requires knowledge in several diverse fields at practical, experimental and theoretical levels. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogeology