• April 15, 2015


The row over a decision to move thousands of tonnes of contaminated silt from a Marina on the west of the Isle of Man has deepened with concerns that the transit of the material to an onshore site 3 miles inland is causing contamination along the haul route.

The material concerned is heavily contaminated by heavy metal pollution (Lead, Copper, Zinc and Cadmium) which runs into the estuary where the Marina in sited from old mine workings.

A resident in the town of Peel has challenged the Department of Infrastructure (DOI) over the move taking photographs throughout the first day of the operation which show widespread spillage on the route. He also asserts the DOI has breached planning rules and that emergency powers sited by the DOI to fast track the operation are rightly a function of the Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA).

Link here to coflicting view aired on Manx Radio between resident Trevor Cowin and the DOI Minister plus related links:


News report IOM Today with photograph of spillage:


Meanwhile the Celtic League has articulated strong concerns again about the operation to the Islands Chief Minister (and the DOI exchanged emails with the Chief Minister earlier today urging his intervention over the haul route contamination).

Text of the letter below:

“13th April 2015

Dear Chief Minister,

Re: Peel Harbour Dredging and Onshore Storage of Harbour Silt.

First can I say I now have a full response from the Minister to the letter I sent to DOI about this issue and which I attached to my letter to you.

I am still awaiting a response to the matters I raised with you which in your absence your PA passed on to the DOI.

As I suspected the logistics of handling this sort of spoil do not seem to have been properly assessed. I sent your Office earlier copies of photographs taken by a Peel resident (Mr Cowin) of spillage on the road this morning.

I have since spoken to the Minister who seemed to believe that the spillage was confined to an area outside Mr Cowin’s house but I advised him that this was not the case as I had observed spillage myself in the area between the outskirts of Peel and Poortown dumpsite entrance. I have since heard Mr Cowin quoted on the radio saying the spillage was occurring all the way through the town.

Also at the time I spoke with the Minister he seemed to think a clean up was underway but I advised him that the main deposit spill (near the Highwayman roundabout) was still there some hours after it occurred being further spread by passing traffic (although I understand in the last forty-five minutes a sweeper has been in the area).

I still have concerns that spillage is occurring and indeed whereas when I wrote to you last I thought this would be slight in fact substantial quantities have leaked. We are talking here about heavy metals and in particular cadmium. I also have concerns the haul site passes the school and until containment can be assured I would urge you to stop this operation.

Finally, I referred above to the clean-up operation ongoing I do trust necessary risk assessment has been undertaken for the workers involved both in this and the operation generally.

Yours sincerely,

J B Moffatt (Mr)

Director of Information
Celtic League”

Meanwhile the DOI Minister Phil Gawne MHK has responded in more detail to queries from the League submitted last week (he had sent an initial brief response to each point we raised but in his latest communication goes into greater detail (full text below):

“13th April 2015

Bernard Veen

Further to my initial quick reply to your questions, I have now had the chance to write a more detailed answer to each point. Taking them in turn:-

a) Is the decision to deposit silt on an open field site (at Poortown) a secure option for the potentially contaminated material? Yes the site at Poortown is considered a secure option for the temporary disposal of the silt. Having decided that a landfill site was better environmentally than disposing of the silt out to sea, other landfill sites were considered, however in the circumstances that there is no fully licensed landfill site in which we could dispose of the silt this area of DOI land is considered the best option.

b) Has an independent environmental impact assessment of the level of contaminants in the silt to be removed been undertaken? There has been no external EIA of the level of contaminants in the silt, only analysis by our colleagues in the Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) using the Government Laboratory.

c) Has an independent long term impact assessment been undertaken for the site near Poortown which you intend to use? There has been no independent assessment of the long term impact. The storage of the silt is only temporary at the field at Poortown, although that will be for several years, for which I am happy to enter into a covenant with the German Commissioners. Our colleagues in DEFA assisted with the decision to locate the silt at Poortown, and will be carrying out environmental monitoring of the silt whilst in the field.

d) Has the potential for leaching of contaminants from the removed material into ground water in the Poortown area been assessed? The direct answer to this question is yes, a fully engineered solution for receiving the silt was designed and put to DEFA for approval before the first sod was cut. The bottom of the disposal area will be lined in order to prevent leaching.

e) Is your Department aware of a general report on contamination compiled some years ago by the British Armies Royal Engineers which showed that surface contamination of a comparatively small area could cause a dramatic spread of contamination if the surface contaminants eventually seeped through to the water table beneath the site? Neither myself or my immediate officers are aware of the report you mention, however as per my answer above, we are putting the material on a specially prepared surface to minimize the risk.

f) Have any potential hazards been identified in relation to dredging the material from Peel Harbour and removing it via the Town of Peel to the Poortown site? Yes there has been some significant consideration into the moving of the silt from Peel Marina to Poortown. To start with, the transfer area for moving the silt into the trucks will be done from the marina boat park rather than alongside the marina blocking the roads. As we all know, driving out of Peel means using quite steep roads and the silt material will be quite wet, and occasionally ‘soupy’ in consistency. Therefore, the loading limit when the silt is very wet will be ca 14 tonnes. There will be a department sweeper based in the area where the roadway may get some water escaping from the trucks, which will have a foam lining of the tailgate area above the load.

The route for the haulage is as follows. The trucks will leave the harbour via East Quay, Mill Road and Patrick Street before heading up Heathfield Drive and Queens Drive. They will use Albany Road to reach Derby Road / Poortown Road and head to the Rockmount / Poortown site from there. Returns will be via the same route. There may be occasional need for weekend movements but only if absolutely necessary, and not during the weekend of 2/3 May when there is a cycling event on the Saturday and a local festival on the Sunday. The haulage route has also been considered, and whilst there is a school along the route, consideration will be taken to try and avoid the peak arrival / departure times.

g) Is the reason for the on land storage/disposal of this material caused by the fact that the silt is too contaminated to be disposed of at sea? Yes, disposing of the significant quantities of silt which we now have out to sea would be more environmentally damaging than land disposal. When disposing of smaller quantities of silt out to sea, the risk is minimal but with the very large amount we need to dispose of, between 18,000 tonnes – 20,000 tonnes, we would probably need to close down the king and queen scallop fishery for a year or two, potentially losing over £6 million.

In closing, may I add, Peel Marina is very important not only to the immediate area of Peel but also to the island’s economy. Nearly all the berths in the marina have been affected by the silt build up. Some berths have been lost, and in some areas there is less than a foot depth of water when we have a promulgated depth of 2.5metres. Many boats are “resting” in the silt, several have been reported to the Department for damage. Last year the Traditional Boat Weekend in Peel had only half the number of boats than in 2013, and it is well know reputationally that Peel Marina is silting/drying up.

I regret that currently there is no licensed landfill site able to permanently take this silt. Several options were considered but at the end, temporary disposal at Poortown, using DOI land, was considered the most appropriate.

I hope I have answered your questions, however please let me know if you have anything else.


Hon Phil Gawne MHK
Minister for Infrastructure”

The Celtic League would like to thank the Minister for his detailed response.

Related links at the Celtic League News Archive:


J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur)


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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