River Otter plan: ‘Low risk’ of pollution

23-05-0399SH Otter Estuary

23-05-0399SH Otter Estuary - Credit: Archant

The risk of ‘toxic’ landfill substances being released by plans to revamp the Otter Estuary is ‘low’, and more surveys will be carried out before anything is done, those behind the project have said.

Landowner Clinton Devon Estates and the Environment Agency are proposing to reintroduce tidal flooding to the river with the Lower Otter Restoration Project.

Writing to the Journal, readers Lynne and Ian Wycherley have raised concerns about the landfill, and the effect the scheme will have on South Farm Road.

Regarding the landfill, they say there is a risk of ‘tidal leaching of the highly toxic landfill’, as ‘many highly toxic substances were dumped liberally in the landfill at the heart of this scheme’.

In response, project manager Mike Williams said: “The Lower Otter Restoration Project has the potential to deliver significant environmental benefits, dealing with a legacy of problems and enabling more sustainable management of the lower Otter valley.

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“The former landfill site is currently an unprotected liability that would be at risk if the embankments failed accidentally.

“There is little real information on what materials were deposited at the site.

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“In the 40 years since the tip was last used, most mobile pollutants will have dissipated. There are no current pollution issues in the watercourses surrounding the site. Waste and contaminated land experts at the Environment Agency assess the risk as low and welcome the opportunity for planned erosion control and containment of the tipped contents.

“Surveys to assess the content, condition and stability of the tipped material and cap are planned.”

The Wycherleys have also raised concerns about the potential for South Farm Road to be cut off.

They say: “A longstanding, much-loved farm shop, residents and a host of Budleigh businesses will be devastated if their lifeline, South Farm Road, is neither raised, bridged, nor protected – as has been implied, repeatedly, by the proposers.

“Prized by all of us who use it to stroll/walk our dogs, I estimate this vital road, based on the maths, would be impassable twice-daily for several hours, and difficult for many more, around most high tides, destroying the businesses, and cruelly isolating part of our community, not all of whom can drive. Access to doctors, fire-engines etc would be diminished.”

In response, Mr Williams said: “Currently, the road floods when the River Otter spills into the floodplain and overtops the embankments to the north of the road.

“If the project goes ahead, or if the estuary banks breach accidentally, the road would frequently be covered at high tide.

“The timing, depth and duration of flooding would vary with each tide.

“We are seeking advice and guidance from Devon County Council, the highway authority, and we are investigating how the effects of flooding might best be mitigated, as well as securing alternative access routes.”

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