Sunday 10 October 2021

Carmarthenhire Council ingnores Loughor Estuary environmental risk, building homes in harm's way - a guest post from Robin Burn

"A coastal vulnerability and environmental risk assessment of Loughor Estuary, South wales" Robin Burn reviews an article published in 2015 by the University of Wales, Trinity St, Davids,Swansea warning of the reckless development of areas under risk of present and future flooding. I doubt Carmarthenshhire County Council Planners, both officers and councillors, keep up to date with accademiic studies. Ocean & Coastal Management 116 (2015) 478-490 K.Denner et al ; Coastal & Marine Research Group, University of Wales Trinity Saint David (Swansea),Swansea,Wales,SA1 6ED ; 15th September 2015. Article Review Comment from Abstract An environmental risk assessment of the Loughor Estuary northern shoreline-South Wales, was carried out by adapting a previously developed Coastal Vulnerability Index. "Assessments identified that the most critical parameters affecting vulnerability along this shoreline, were coastal slope and beach width. Results highlighted that this shoreline was vulnerable and that a significant percentage of residential housing, transport and energy supply infrastructure, are located in highly vulnerable locations". It was also noted that there is a concentration of future re-development in similarly vulnerable locations In Introduction the report acknowledges that esturine environments are low-lying fragile coastal ecosystems sensitive by nature to climatic variations. Low -lying coastal areas more vulnerable to climatic impacts and as a result are at a greater risk of flooding and coastal erosion. Easterly drift of sediment and fine sand is accreting the estuary, requiring regular harbour dredging. In the Discussion section of the paper, the authors assess the crux of the investigations acknowledging that" Identification of socio-economic and ecological features wholly or partially occuring in areas of high vulnerability showed that a high percentage of infrastructure related to transport and access and energy supply are located in high vulnerability areas. The majority of residential housing within 500meters of Median Water Height, the area most likely to flood, occurs in very vulnerable areas with little protection. Flooding is already the major issue impacting the study area with Llanelli recording the highest risk of present and future flooding. The addition of new development upon previously developed sites in areas of high vulnerability will increase pressure upon drainage and sewage systems leading to an even greater risk of flooding in the estuary. Almost 80% of coastal land designated for future development occured in areas of high vulnerability. Of the coastal defence structures located in the study area to protect current assets and infrastructure,35% have less than a 20 year lifespan remaining, all of the structures have less than 50 years of longevity left The only available report detailing costs of maintaining defensive structures at the two locations with the highest vulnerability was produced in 2004 and they were estimated to exceed the entire regional coastal defence budget by a factor of 10. The ability of the local authority to defend these structures has been questioned. The lack of knowledge of coastal processes when planning as part of the Regeneration strategy for the study area, has previously led to erosion and flooding potential to new developments. It can be reasoned that the LA's locating of of future infrastructure and development in coastal areas, despite recognisable vulnerability to flooding and coastal erosion, in the face of climate change, reveals a propensity to favour short term economic gain from coastal real estate and investment opportunities Robin Burn I Eng FIMMM 22nd August 2021 picture: asbestos sheeting exposed by the erosion October 7th
Update: High Tides on October 7th caused considerable coastal erosion near Burry Port at the site of the demolished Carmarthen Bay Power Station. What has been exposed is large amounts buried asbestos containing roofing sheets. Other debris may also be toxic, inclding some bright green blocks of material I have not seen before. When I accidently touched one of these it did irritate my skin quite quickly and I had to wash my hand promptly to stop the "burnng" senstion. There is a photograph here showing one of the green blocks, Does anyone know what they are? Copper Arsenite has been suggested to me but I'm no expert.
Sian Caiach

Monday 16 August 2021

Homes , businesses and leisure in the Llanelli Area now threatened after new estimates of future Sea Rise.

Llanelli stands on the north shore of the Loughor Estuary.Much of the low lying part of the town stands on reclaimed land and this area was orinigally full of docks and industrial buildings as well as the terraced houses for workers. The last massive flood suffereed by the town was in 1896 when a huge tidal flood, aided by the tail of an Atlantic Hurricane, submerged all of the lower areas of the town and also cut off the nearby town of Burry Port as both road and rail links there were washed away With global warming and increasing sea level rise, unlikely to be reversed anytime soon, Carmarthenshire County Council planners have reacted by approving or encouraging several significant housing and other developments close to the sea shore. In the case of housing developments they have claimmed that raising the land beneath the new homes and gardens is enough to protect them. Unfortunately they have decided not to raise the road access so these estates could become islands when the floods do come. The project for a large "Health and Wellness" centre at the tidal Delta Lakes site close to the Llanelli shore was rather questionable from the start. Had it gone ahead (it was exposed as a rather fraudulent project and rejected for City Deal Funding) future flooding could have endangered not only the elderly in its care home environments, but also the residents of any housing built there and the workers in the pharmaceutical themed industrial park.
When I moved to Llanelli 26 years ago the risk of massive flooding from the estuary was quoted as a one in 1000 year event. Its now a probability of one in 100 years and National Resources Wales has advised that "one in a hundred" events well may eventually become annual events unless the warming can be reversed. The true situation seems to be that even with our "best efforts" at present we will be lucky to slow the temperature rises and there is very little chance of keeping the sea level at bay, howver high the piles of earth on which the new homes are planned by Carmarthenshire County Council are to be built. The County Council Planners seemed initially to ignore the dangers of Climate Change. There were supposedly plans for the heavy metal contaminted old Grillo Chemical Factory site on the sea front and new housing for areas around Burry Port Harbour. Currently the coastal erosion of an area near Burry Port has exposed the asbestos burried there after the Carmarthen Bay Power station was demolished in the 1990s and much of the asbestos was simply covered with soil by the bulldozers. This contaminated beach is part of the millenium coastal park, currently cordoned off while the visible asbestos is collected from the beach. The rising sea level is surely likely to erode more of the hidden asbestos in future and the authorities are, I understand, cosidering employing a speicalist removal Firm to advise. Asbestos from the old power station is no stranger to the Royal MiLLenium Coastal Park and in dry periods can be seen on the banks and bottoms of the park's ponds near the old industrial site. The increasing coastal erosion may simply release more of it. At a time when more tourists are coming to appreciate the beauty of the coastline, beach barriers and warnings are a blow to our local tourism industry. Perhaps a more mediteranian climate, hotels and swimming pools may be the future of tourism - or perhaps not if the weather is not only hot but violent?
In the last 2 decades Carmarthenhsire county Council has put house building before the environment, even though it has been aware that significant amounts of our sewage has not been treated and although the situation of sewage spills has improved, Welsh Water Dwr Cymru has still not been able to treat all local domestic sewage, even today. Now it is the rising sea which is the big threat. Much of the town is at risk and already many rivers and streams are tide locked - huge valves in place to shut out the sea at high tide where the watercourses meet the sea. As the sea level rises, the rivers run more and more risk of back flow flooding into the town against these valvesif sea level rises.The changing weather patterns of more intense rainfall and more violent storms are likely to worsen the situation. The latest reports on the likely sea level rise now suggest that we need to take the situation more seriously or face the catastrophy of severe weather , storms and flooding with no prior planning . The report by Climate Central is surely a big "wake Up" call. I would hope the Senedd are up to speed with all this and can give all of us under threat good advice and strong protection for the coming years. Those whose homes, jobs and communities are on the front line need urgent guidance. Update:28/08/2021 TIME FOR HONESTY AND LEADERSHIP I am informed today by a well qualified local engineer that in the current climate emergency, the only effective flood protection solution for the threatened parts of Llanelli would be a damn or barrage across the mouth of the Loughor estuary which could both protect the low lying areas of the town from the sea and aiso allow the rivers and streams to flow outwards rather than backflow against the tide locks, otherwise the rivers would be blocked, producing freshwater flooding inland. A decision has to be made soon, construction is likely to be expensive and take several years. Otherwise we have to know the alternative if saving the land and homes is not possible. Sennedd members,National and local civil servants and local County Councillors have known about the threat for some time. They have been warned of the likely flooding by National Resources Wales and other sources such as the recent Climate Central figures, which show the 2050 sea level rise as one which may well drown all of Machynys and much of the other land in Llanelli reclaimed from the sea during and since the Industrial Revolution. Climate change with its likely severe weather, storms and flooding should surely be the most important issue in Llanelli today but our local and National Politicians are largely silent on the topic. If we are told that a crisis is coming we should preapre for it. If there is no money and no time to proetct those under threat , it is surely a time for some painful honesty and arrangements to permanently move those at risk out of harm's way and to places they can live in safety. Sian Caiach