Dirty Water


One thing that hasn’t been talked about much during this campaign is, surprisingly enough, the environment.

Given a growing consensus that we are in the middle of the Sixth Great Extinction and that even U.S. intelligence services anticipate increasingly frequent but unpredictable crises in water supplies, food markets, energy supply chains and public health systems, that seems something of a terrible omission.

I haven’t spoken about it much because Greens are widely assumed to be “good” on the environment and it is important for us to talk about social justice, good governance, a more equitable economy and other pressing issues.

Just to touch very briefly on a local “Green” related issue though: Here in Margate groundwater pollution is a particularly prominent problem. (In the south east groundwater provides some 70% of drinking water…)

Thanet’s groundwater itself is widely believed by most to not be a source of drinking water to residents. (The Environment Agency declines to provide information that can be used to directly or indirectly identify where public water supply sources are located, for “national security” reasons…)

According to a report commissioned by KCC however Thanet’s groundwater does, in fact, provide drinking water to the area.

Referring to Thanet’s permeable bedrock, the report highlights that groundwater from the chalk is used to “supply water for drinking water, agriculture, horticulture and industry” before adding that the groundwater body is “contaminated with nitrates, pesticides, solvents and hydrocarbons at levels that are of concern.”

(The contamination levels are only in the “raw” groundwater. Southern Water is legally obliged to regularly test the groundwater and treat it accordingly before it ends up in your taps, if that is any reassurance, given that this is a company that has been described by a judge has having “a persistent track record of criminality”…)

There are many sources of that pollution, including agricultural run-off.

One former industrial site in Margate alone however has had 100 grams of mercury, 407 kg of benzene, 48 kg of toluene, 64 kg of 1,2,4-trimethyl benzene, 119 kg of aromasol, 61 kg of versatic acid, 1.6 kg of texanol and 8 kg of phenol removed from the groundwater beneath it. And plenty more remains.

And the former Thor Chemicals mercury factory (a favourite topic of local conspiracy theorists) continues to seep toxic mercury into the groundwater; albeit at a depth and location the Environment Agency doesn’t see as a threat to public health.

As the Environment Agency put it:

The drier section of the chalk aquifer between the ground surface and the groundwater table is contaminated with mercury and a mixture of solvents used in the manufacture of mercury products and OIT. There are particular hot-spots under the former production area, the former chemical and effluent tanks and beneath drainage soakaways.

Funnily enough, the site hasn’t had a remediation notice served on it and as a result, doesn’t need to be entered on to TDC’s “Contaminated Land Register”. That’s right: A site leaking mercury and large range of solvents into the groundwater isn’t on the contaminated land register.

That conveniently means that TDC has no statutory duty to monitor the site.

As the Environment Agency puts it in an email: “No remediation notice has been served because Thanet District Council have not needed to officially determine whether the Thor site meets the statutory definition of Contaminated Land, due to the site owners deciding to voluntarily investigate and remediate the contamination prior to any such determination being looked in to.”

(By the bye, TDC’s contaminated land officer is, perhaps ironically, off long term sick…)

Other than that as someone who cares about the environment I’m not overly keen on heavily polluted water, this issue is important because a well run council should be robustly exercising the regulatory tools at its disposal and this appears to be another case where it isn’t.

If you want to vote for someone who cares very deeply indeed about the environment and how we treat it, please vote Green tomorrow.


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