Ghost ship firm applies to discharge waste into river

Able UK, the firm at the centre of the row over scrapping toxic US naval ships, has applied for permission to dump sewage and effluent into the River Tees.

The Environment Agency has received four applications to discharge treated sewage, treated trade effluent and site drainage out of two new outfalls, from its Graythorp Yard in Hartlepool.

A fifth application, to discharge surface water from the site into the river, is already being considered.

If granted, all of the discharges will be monitored by the Environment Agency who said that the applications are part of a series of permissions that Able UK would need to effectively run its ship scrapping operation.

“As always, our role is to ensure that people’s health and that of our environment is safeguarded, and this is what we will be assessing the applications against,” said Bob Pailor, Environment Manager for the Environment Agency.

The applications are the latest in a series of rulings that Able UK must wait for before it can start its ship scrapping operations. The company has attracted controversy since taking on a contract to scrap 13 former US naval ships at its Teesside plant (see related story).

Environmental groups have raised concerns that the ships are full of toxic substances, such as PCBs, asbestos, mercury, lead, chromium and cadmium, as well as oils and oily ballast water which could cause damage to the marine environment.

Four of the ships are already in Hartlepool waiting for permission for scrapping to begin, while the others are still moored in the US, having been delayed by planning and legal objections.

Able UK insists that its decommissioning facilities are top of the range and would not affect the surrounding environment. However, the company withdrew its planning application to build a dry dock wall for the disposal of the ships. Instead, it has relied on an earlier planning permission, granted in 1997, to allow it to build a rock filled bund, a proposal that the company acknowledges is less environmentally safe than the cofferdam it had applied to build. However, in taking this action, Able UK has avoided the need for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to be carried out, into the risks this poses.

Public consultation on the waste applications runs until December 2nd 2005 and copies are available from the Environment Agency offices in Cleveland, and from Hartlepool Borough Council.

By David Hopkins

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