DEFRA consults on port sediment

The environment department (DEFRA) is consulting on a ‘decision framework’ for managing and disposing of contaminated sediments dredged from ports and harbours.1

DEFRA, the Crown Estate and Natural England commissioned research on the issue from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS).

CEFAS has constructed a ‘decision framework’ to guide port authorities and developers through the legislation and make decisions about the feasibility of disposal options. It takes into account risk, environmental and economic factors.

Dredged material can contain contaminants including metals, PCBs and the antifoulant tributyl tin (TBT). Its disposal has been heavily regulated, notably through the international London Dumping Convention, the Ospar Convention and the EU waste framework and landfill directives.

Depending on the level of contaminants, material may be unsuitable for disposal at sea, which needs a licence under the Food and Environmental Protection Act 1985, administered by the Marine Management Organisation on behalf of DEFRA. Disposal on land may depend on accessible sites being licensed to accept the waste and whether it falls into the ‘hazardous’ category.

Dredging and removing sediments may also create further environmental risks that must be managed and monitored.

The decision framework has been based on sub-reports on liability, prevention of pollution and best practice in sediment management, which are available on DEFRA’s website.2

The consultation paper presents CEFAS’s work and asks for comments on the framework’s assumptions and its use. Consulting closes on 8 October.

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