Friday 24 November 2017

A fisheries' tale Robin Burn I Eng FIMMM

Introduction by Siân Caiach 
At the end of the 1990's a disastrous decision was made to "upgrade" the sewerage treatment in the Llanelli and North Gower areas which discharged  into the Burry Inlet.(Loughor Estuary) The small settlement plants were closed and all sewage pumped up to Bynea and Gowerton where the foul discharge was treated by UV light. Unfortunately the plants were designed to take "dry" sewage, the assumption was that only sewage was in the sewers. In fact, massive amounts of surface water drained into the sewers and very soon the sewage plant was overwhelmed. Untreated and partially treated sewage was released into the natural waterway in increasing volumes. Huge attenuation tanks were built into the system to try to hold back the huge volumes after rainfall. After a few years the shellfish fishery was severely affected with mass cockle deaths every summer. The most likely cause of this was eutrification, too much fertiliser in the water causing algal blooms and killing the animals by asphyxiation. Not only cockles but other animals who could not move away from the sand banks such as sand eels and lug worms, were decimated. Fearful of  admitting that this was a man made disaster, convinced by the  Carmarthenshire County Council that massive house building was the only development possible in the area, and assured by Welsh Water that they could not  afford to put things right, a Welsh Government led cover up was organised to convince everyone that although there was incontrovertible evidence that the sewage was not being treated, there was some other reason that the cockles were dying.  As a  County Councillor 2008-17 I was told on several occasions that the protests were only about getting compensation for the cockle gatherers and I should not be supporting them. When the Stradey Residents Association reported the matter to the European Commission is was hoped that the  environmental protection of the EU directives would save the day.
Here is Robin Burn's excellent summary of events.

A Fisheries Tale

The Loughor Estuary and Burry Inlet, that part of Carmarthen bay, bounded to the north by the southern coastline of the county of Carmarthen, and to the south by the north shore of the Gower Peninsular is identified by Natural Resources Wales as being environmentally sensitive. To be precise designated as the Carmarthen Bay and Estuaries special area of conservation (SAC),site of special scientific interest (SSSI), the Burry Inlet special protection area (SPA) and is an internationally important wetland site (RAMSAR).

Of  importance for the local economy, the Burry Inlet supports a cockle fishery and  has supported this for many years. So important that  Sian Jenkins Hughes, Fisheries Technical Officer of Natural Resources Wales went so far as to announce that “ Our environment in Wales is the most valuable natural asset we have and we have the potential to generate more for our economy if we use it sustainably”.

This was for the occasion of the launch of Seafish’s Risk Assessment for Sourcing Seafood (RASS) website.

Careful analysis of the content of the website casts doubt however on the viability of the fishery, from the mixed messages delivered in the text .Quoting from the overview of the fishery, it states that “Burry Inlet cockles have been subject to unexplained summer mortalities in recent years(Elliot et al(2012). NRW are currently reviewing the recommendations of the 2012 report with a view to further progress this area of work subject to available resources”.

 It further states “The Burry Inlet Cockle Fishery Order 1965 Management Plan sets out Natural Resources Wales aim to develop a thriving cockle fishery in the Burry Inlet that supports, protects and enhances the needs of the community and the environment upon which it depends to:
 avoid adverse effects on the European designated site and local residents”

In the section designated Stock status quote”The Burry Inlet cockle stock has been scored a moderate risk This is because although the cockles are characterised by relatively low vulnerability ( recent years have seen a declining trend in the population”.
In the  Habitat  subsection it quotes that”The seabed effects of the fishery are scored a very low risk. The Burry Inlet is a European Marine Site designated for nature conservation and the management plan requires avoidance of adverse effects on the site”.

In the Outlook subsection, the website script advise, a moderate stock risk status an uncertain out look on the basis of atypical summer mortality of stocks, the cause of which is still being investigated with emphasis on pathogens and biosecurity.

Following the launch of the website and press release, the September 21st edition of the Llanelli Star reports on a meeting with the Welsh Governments Environment Secretary , Lesley Giffiths, with Llanelli’s MP Nia Griffith and AM Lee Waters, to raise the on-going concerns about the lack of progress to tackle issues facing the cockle industry, of cockle deaths and sewage problems.
A statement from the Welsh Government spokeswoman suggested the previously commissioned investigation found no evidence to suggest pollution in the Burry Inlet waters.

The first indication that all was not well with the handling of waste water in from the urban areas of the northern boundery, the southern coast of Carmarthenshire, from the three rivers estuary at the eastern end to the Burry inlet at the western end, came from a public notice in November of 2008, of a request by Welsh Water/ Dwr Cymru to the then Environment Agency for an application of consent  to discharge sewage in an emergency situation.
At the same time a request for consent to diascharge into Dyfatty Brook from storm sewage overflow at Bryn avenue  CSO in Burry Port was lodged.
At the time emergency sewage  discharge consent was in place in Burry Port from the Heol Vaughan pumping station into the Khymer Canal.

Representations  of concern were made on the 5th of December 2008 to the Envronment Agency, a reply issued by the Agency was made on the 11th of February 2009. The Agency confirmed that “the applications were consented as they are for improvements under the AMP scheme to existing assets in the area. The new pumping station proposal is to replace an existing pumping station and will not discharge under storm conditions. The consent is for discharge in an emergency only.
The application for the combined sewer overflow is to replace two existing combined sewer overflows in the area. The new overflow will have extra storage and limit the spill frequency to one spill a year.

In the period between the 5th of August, until the 9th of November 2008 ,three heavy rainfall events occurred, that resulted in prolonged spillages of 4.5 hours in August,a 20 hour spill in September, and a 36 hour spill on the 9th of November.
In 2009 the accolade of a blue flag beach standard for Cefn Sidan was not awarded.

As a result of the November 2008 recorded spillages, Dr Lewis Keil was invited to attend the November19th. 2008 Pembrey & Burry Port Town Council meeting.
Members informed Dr Keil ,that they were very concerned, that, there had been eleven recorded spills at the Khymer Canal since January, especially as the canal is inert, and located in an area used for local events, and surrounded by properties. These spillages had occurred since the pumping station was upgraded and before completion of the new development at Chandlers Yard where there are already problems with the sewage system.
Dr Keil agreed that spillage levels were too high, he stated that, combined overflows which discharge are normal,but were not anticipated at the Khymer Canal, as models approved by the Environment Agency, had predicted one spill a year.
On the 6th of January 2009 Dr Keil, after the November 2008 meeting, wrote to the Council. In his letter he wrote” I had advised of the complete refurbishment of the Ashburnham sewage pumping that was due in summer 2008. Despite this work being undertaken, there were spills in September, October and November 2008”, he also “advised that it was difficult to see what else can be done to reduce spills.”
Finally he offers that”In the short term, the designers are checking the system to see if adjustment of the pump trigger levels can be altered to reduce the number of the storm spills. If this is not successful then a very costly alternative,such as piping storm sewage to the estuary, would be required to solve the problem.

On the 5th of February 2009, a call for a ministerial meeting on water quality, in the Burry Inlet, calling for action through the assembly, and Europe, following the disappointing news that the Blue Flag award, had been withdrawn from Cefn Sidan beach. The loss of the award had increased local concerns about water treatment, and the impact of large scale housing developments on the insufficient and over used water treatment works during periods of heavy rainfall. The local Assembly Member had arranged to meet the Minister for the Environment on the 11th of February to express concerns. A meeting with the Member of the European Parliament, had also called a meeting to discuss the level of concerns of the estuary.
On the 12th of February the then Environment Agency Wales, reacting to the February the 5th press release, in a Position Statement offered the following comments “It is important to know that combined drainage systems such as those in Burry Port pumping station are deliberately designed to allow discharges to the sea or rivers under certain controlled conditions.
During heavy rainfall, the pumps cannot pass forward all the sewage to the sewage treatment works, and the dilute sewage is allowed to overflow into the sea or the river. This storm sewage as it is called, is screened and requires a licence (called a consent), from the Environment Agency which contains conditions that Dwr Cymru Welsh Water must adhere to.
If the combined drainage system was not able to operate like this, then under heavy rainfall conditions, it is likely that domestic and residential properties, would flood with sewage.” 

Setting aside the assertions of the various regulatory authorities, whose responsibility is to maintain the directives, in reality the situation cannot be further from the actuality, that, on March the 26th 2015 the European Court ruled that the Government of the United Kingdom was in breach of the Urban Water Treatment Directive at Llanelli, and Gowerton, and is awaiting a judgement to be handed down by the Court.
The European Court judgement is the culmination of several years of investigations, discussions by various lobby groups to determine the truth behind the observations of many individuals, that all was not well in terms of fishery expectations, and that the well being of the estuary and the inlet was far from being healthy.
In May 2017the European Court finally handed down the ruling but did not fine the United Kingdom for the breach of the Urban Water Treatment directive. 

This case shows how toothless the EU environmental regulations can be.They rely on the local governments to uphold them, local people to report problems and can be soft on breaches. In this case the European Court took almost 10 years to rule on pollution in the Burry Inlet. A ruling of guilt against the UK  brought censure but no punishment. Welsh Water cannot afford to install new treatment facilities and are currently digging up central Llanelli to put in new drains to separate ground water drainage from the sewers. Spills continue and the cockles have not recovered. No wonder the people of Llanelli voted to leave the European Union!

Robin Burn

Sunday 12 November 2017

The Councillors lost daughter part 3

This final instalment has been delayed due to Carina's grandmother becoming ill some weeks ago. She is now much better and Mr and Mrs Burn, with whom I have closely collaborated in all these articles, have approved and contributed to this final part of the story. The reaction of the Social Service Department to the exposure of the allegations against the Mrs and Mr Burn as complete fantasy is extremely disturbing. Why did they have to still fight to keep their daughter after cleared of any wrongdoing? How many other vulnerable adults have been less fortunate and are still wrongly held against their will in similar situations?

 Siân Caiach

This is the last part of the story of how a vulnerable young woman was wrongly taken into care after false allegations by “carers” provided by her local authority. Carina’s parents were accused of  sexually abusing their daughter .No evidence was ever found that they did except for statements from those employed by the Council to take the 19 year old to activities. They had known her for only 3 weeks. As she cannot talk, these carers pretended that she could communicate with them via a letter board. using Facilitated Communication, a process easily faked and not acceptable as evidence in UK law. When eventually the quality of this communication was tested by an expert, no communication could be shown, Carina did communicated in the manner of a young child with the professor when properly assessed, and communicated she just wanted to go home.

The last chapter in Carina Burn’s story of being abducted by local social services is one which is disturbing even though she herself was eventually taken back by her family. The news of the results of the tests was not welcomed. The professor was asked to reconsider her assessment and rewrite the report. The motivation seemed to be to protect County Council Employees rather than swiftly return the young woman to her parents.

After Professor Howlin declined to change her mind and alter the report, she was invited to Carmarthen to explain her findings to the council officers in person. Even after this visit when the professor was cross examined as to her findings and explained what had happened, no action was initiated to return Carina to her parents. Looking at the professor's scale of fees the cost of the visit is likely to have been at least £1000 plus travel and accommodation expenses. The emotional cost to Carina's parents and herself of delaying the return was devastating.

 Mr and Mrs Burn knew there was proof that they were totally innocent but were still not allowed access to their daughter with all the emotional damage that caused .More seriously, Carina herself was still confined against her will and severely distressed.  She had no idea why she had been taken away, or where her parents were. After almost 6 months of this stress her health was deteriorating. Cruelly, her parents were told that they could not visit as she had, via the carers, refused to give consent to allow them to visit.

 At this point all parties knew that there was an expert opinion confirming no communication between Carina and her “carers”. Furthermore, Carina had been assessed by Professor Howlin as having severe learning difficulties and therefore lacking legal capacity. It appeared that the local council were going ahead with placing her with foster carers even though the Authority, and presumably the new foster carers, had no means of communicating with Carina. With her mother she can communicate not only simple words and phrases but more importantly her basic needs such as hunger, thirst and needing the toilet .All were now aware that she had been falsely imprisoned and treated dreadfully.

A sustained cover up was clearly on the cards and her continued stay at the care home was doubly dangerous. Not only was her “care” poor and resulting in unnecessary physical and mental stress, but if she was now reclassified as without capacity, it could be argued by the social work department that she was not in a position to decide where she should live. They could quite legally move her to the foster home as planned and significantly delay her return to her parents, perhaps stop it all together as the Council could afford the very best of legal representation and her family could not.

There was one short window of opportunity to take her back. If a parental visit could be arranged at this time, while the Authority still maintained that Carina had legal capacity, if it could be witnessed and she was able to communicate with her mother [the only person who could communicate with her using FC],that she wanted to go home, there was nothing in law at that point to stop her going home with her mother.

After repeated requests, Carmarthenshire County Council Social Services allowed a visit by her mother to be supervised at Burry Port Harbour. It was said that Carina staunchly refused to see her father. Carina had, of course, not actually communicated at all. The 2 carers and the social worker who claimed they were able to do so, had demonstrated with the professor that they could not. I myself and Councillor Malcolm Davies agreed to witness the meeting. The date was April 1st 2011.

Here is Julia Burn's personal account of what happened next.

Carina arrived accompanied by a social worker, Bethan Williams and a young man Julia did not know. Bethan, herself had claimed she could communicate with Carina using FC but had not been able to demonstrate this when Carina was tested by the professor.

"I arrived at the harbour and went into the cafe to secure a table near the door for a cup of tea to calm my nerves, knowing that if this didn't work, I would probably never see my daughter again.

It was supposed to be for a short walk with Carina around the harbour and into the Yacht Club for a meeting with Bethan Williams and her minder so I had to get Carina into the Cafe instead. When I met Carina I hugged, her and then suggested that she needed to go to the toilet urgently and that the Yacht Club was closed so perhaps the cafe would be the best place to go.

After taking her to the toilet, every move being watched and having to leave the door open, I bought her a cup of tea and sat at the table .I then asked her if she had anything she wanted to tell me, and, using the word board she spelt out "Take me home now". At that time I motioned to Councillor Sian Caiach and asked Carina to repeat what she had just communicated which she did. So I stood up, told Bethan Williams that Carina wanted to go home, so we were going home,and promptly left with her following me. I opened the car door, she got in immediately and we went home. Finally she was back where she should always have been- with Mum and Dad"

After this the local Authority acted with extreme hostility. They called the police who were not interested as Carina was 19 and according to CCC had capacity to make her own decisions. I advised her parents not to open the door to my own social services department - I didn't trust them. The cover up was going to be far more important that the well being of their client. They were allowed to see Carina through the living room window. I visited the family immediately after Carina's return and subsequently and would have happily given evidence of what I saw in their home - a traumatised young woman being supported by her loving parents.

 Here is Julia's account of this harassment.

"This should have been the end of the story but no, the Authority sent social workers around banging on the door demanding to see Carina to check that she was safe - some were built like bricks and there was no way we going to open the door to them.We were  hassled for some days before they eventually gave up on that course of action , only to be followed by demands for meetings to arrange services for Carina and an assessment - they actually expected us to put her back into the care of Perthyn (the company who had caused us all this trouble and misery) so we engaged a solicitor to act on our behalf.

We chose Sinclair Law and Caroline Goodall accompanied Robin to represent us at meetings and we had no wish to ever see or speak to any of these social workers again but after paying out thousands of pounds she let us down and sided with the Authority, querying that Carina may have adult capacity when Professor Howlin , the expert, had repeatedly told Carmarthenshire County Council that Carina did not have capacity. She then refused to act for us in the Court of Protection.

It was important for us to become legal Deputies for Carina as an extra safeguard against Carmarthenshire so we became litigants in person and with the help of the internet Robin managed to prepare the required documents and fill in the masses of paperwork required. I, of course, could not help too much as Carina needed my full time attention, love and care as she was suffering profusely from this whole travesty and required constant confirmation that this was not her fault.

We won deputy ship for her monies and financial affairs but had to agree to a home assessment. We had asked for a private independent assessment as we did not trust any of the Authority's social workers, and this was agreed. The Assessment confirmed that our home and standard of care was excellent. Carina at last had the Protection of the Court against the Authority.

The Ombusdman stated the this business "was flawed from the outset" and the private report into our complaint  against Carmarthenshire County Council  found their procedures to be lacking.

To this day there has never been an Independent Safeguarding Investigation into the actions of Carmarthenshire County Council  and the police and no confirmation that the Perthyn carers responsible [for the false allegations], Nicola Evans and Stacey Duggan have ever been brought to task. Nor have C.C.C.Social care employees Bethan Williams,Anthony Maynard,Gareth John, Jonathan Hughes, Bruce Mclernon  and other officers and social workers who have now abandoned ship and run away to other areas where they can wreak havoc!"

Robin Burn with his daughter Carina 

Thursday 9 November 2017

"10 years of dereliction - The Grillo Site in Burry Port - Offshore Company allows pollution to continue.

The site of a chemical factory with gross land contamination is not the best construction site for homes and retail. Was the sale and planning permission just a ruse to let  Carmarthenshire County Council and NRW off the hook as toxic chemicals are likely leaching  into the Burry Inlet , the supposedly protected NATURA site and  shellfish fishery. The new owners , Castletown Estates are apparently listed offshore and have accepted responsibility for the clean up, But the company, registered in the Isle of Mann, shows no sign of actually getting on with the decontamination . A derelict site known to have chemical contamination is not what the residents of Burry Port want. Despite being informed by Llanelli Flood Forum members that indicative tests of the water leaching out of the site into the Habour shows several heavy metals, CCC have declined to test the water formally.                         

Robin Burn describes the sad saga of neglect.

Grillo Site
Burry Port Harbour

It is now 10 years since the former Grillo Zinc oxide production factory adjacent to Burry Port harbour was sold and demolished in 2007 and the site has lain dormant since then and debris remains on the site.

The site adjacent to Burry port Harbour has in its time been various metalworking establishments finally up until its demolition a site for Zinc Oxide manufacturing. 

The site is contaminated with a cocktail of toxic metal, organic and inorganic compounds all with risk to public health.
Carmarthenshire County Council were aware, that, by allowing planning for housing development on that site, would probably trigger a call in by the Welsh Government/Environment Agency.
In a Planning Committee on January 18 th 2011, the planning committee were advised by senior officers of Carmarthenshire County Council “ that, as the Committee was minded to approve planning application S/18723, subject to the conditions detailed within the Report/Addendum of the Head of Planning and/or reported at the meeting, the Head of Planning be granted plenary powers to deal with any outstanding matters once the Article 14 Notice is withdrawn, or the application is called-in for determination, inclusive of the Appropriate Assessment being signed off by CCW within a reasonable time period from forwarding the same, in accordance with the provisions of Regulation 43(1) of the Conservation of Habitats & Species Regulations 2010 and inclusive also of a Section 106 Agreement”

In other words Carmarthenshire County Council accepted the fact that this development was on a Classified C2 floodplain., which should not , due to the risk of flooding, have any development except vital utilities eg sewage pumps.

In correspondence from the Environment Agency Wales, responsibility for monitoring the site and its associated ground water, is the developer.  Camarthenshire County Council has been made aware of actions to be taken including post remedial monitoring of groundwater.  The Environment Agency understands that ground water beneath the site is in continuity with open water within Burry Port Harbour.
The Environment Agency Wales will continue to act as an advisor to the Local Authority for matters that could impact on ground or surface waters when requested.

In respect of the future development of the site, the site is proposed for residential purposes and some community asset, given the present economic restrictions and uncertain waste disposal system quality, should a change of use of the site be considered to one of emphasis on social and cultural asset?

The Llanelli Star has published articles based on the views of a number of elected Councillors of Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council.
These views, in favour of developing the Harbour Area to the proposed planning applications and that failure to do so would be detrimental to the future prosperity of Burry Port. The views vociferously expounded  appear to be based on the principle that the proposed development area has never flooded and that the flood maps have now been changed to show, that the development areas are not on a flood plain.

Unfortunately this view, only supports a part of the facts surrounding the flood risks for these sites, and does not support the real facts as expounded by both Natural Resources Wales and Watermans .
Both organizations have submitted their assessments of flood risk to Carmarthenshire County Council and can be accessed from the County’s Planning Applications sites.

Firstly Natural Resources Wales, in their document, whilst they advise, that their Flood Map Information, updated shows the site to be flood free, they acknowledge, that Site 6 lies partially within the current C2 Zone as defined by the Development Advice Maps (DAM) referred to under Technical Advice Note (TAN)15 Development and Flood Risk (July 2004).
They qualify this statement by advising that their information does not take into consideration climate change allowances or blockages at structures through which flood water passes.

They go on to say” In accordance with TAN 15 the proposed development of up to 134 residential properties would be considered as highly vulnerable and should not be permitted within zone C2.  However, if your authority are minded to consider the application it should be shown through the submission of an appropriate flood consequences assessment (FCA) that the consequences of flooding can be acceptably be managed over the lifetime of the development.

The NRW document makes reference to a Flood Consequences Assessment “Redevelopment of Burry Port-Sites 5&6 Flood Consequences Assessment Final. July 2014 Referenced 16025/FCA02A prepared by Waterman Transport and Development Ltd”
 and submitted to the Authority forming part of the Planning Application documentation.

The document discusses Tidal Flood Risk and comments that the principle risk of flooding at the site is potential tidal flooding in the future. The principle cause is the effect of Climate Change in terms of tidal flood risk.

TAN 15 states that provision must be made for future changes in flood risk, specifically as a result of Climate Change. In this case flood risk must be considered over the anticipated lifetime  of each development.
 It is proposed to develop sites 5&6 for residential use; therefore a lifetime of development of 100 years has been assumed giving an assessment year of 2114, and as the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)  has produced guidance regarding sea level rises for 2114, sea level rise is 14.5 mm/year. 

The FCA concludes that the site remains dry in the majority of the scenarios modelled, however the site is at risk of flooding during a 0.1% plus climate change annual probability tidal event and an extreme 0.5% annual probability tidal event plus climate change and with tidal levels at the upper extent of the confidence interval. The FCA therefore proposes mitigation in the form of raising ground elevations to 7.1 meters AOD to address flood risk. We accept that the proposed mitigation works effectively to create a plateau that remains flood free for all scenarios considered within the FCA.
The proposed mitigation increases flood risk on the B4311 to the west of the site and significant flood risk on the adjacent former Grillo site requiring mitigation by a similar raising of  ground elevations to 7.1m AOD 

To counteract the lack of suitable waste management facilities by Welsh Water, it should be made incumbent on the developer to incorporate all the current waste disposable systems that are environmentally sustainable and friendly into the plans for the build.

Site remediation continues to be priority, as no attempt has been made since demolition to clean up the site. This is now becoming a critical issue.
Remediation costs will be extensive, perhaps under current economic conditions beyond the means of any developer. The solution in this case is European funding backed by Welsh Government.

This solution would clear the ground for Community assets for cultural community and recreation to meet conditions of a Local Development Plan as well as creating employment opportunities for the local community. The site stands on a designated flood plain, the development called in by the Environment Agency on behalf of the Welsh  Government to restrict the building of houses. 
A buy back from the developer and clean up funded by Public Finance is a logical solution to a problem considered to be an ongoing one.

Robin Burn I Eng FIMMM

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