Letter: Asphalt plant: Credibility of soil investigation challenged

On The Wight reader raises further concern over data provided to the council by the asphalt plant applicant

We always welcome a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers. A popular subject in recent weeks has been issues surrounding the proposed asphalt plant. This letter from one reader calling himself Harvey. Ed

In recent weeks I wrote to Mr Murphy (LPA) outlining my concerns of the potential shortcomings of the current soils investigations. It would appear that my concerns have been disregarded and not brought to the attention of the Environment Agency (EA) or IWC consultants.

I have been asked to accept that because the EA have had sight of the proposals and not raised any concerns no further action need be taken.

I would confidently assert that while IWC consultants and the EA have reviewed the applicant’s scope/specification for these soil investigations, they have not been asked to take responsibility for or comment on the number/position of the boreholes.

Has the applicant given geodetic positions for these boreholes? Or have they simply marked a site plan giving approximate locations? The significance of this is that without independent observation the IWC cannot confirm with any degree of confidence where the borehole samples were actually taken from.

Important to verify data
The importance of being able to verify soils data cannot be overstated, especially bearing in mind that the applicant claimed that no asbestos was found on site from a previous soils investigation.

However they failed to mention that unless the laboratory is specifically instructed to test for asbestos then none will be found. Moreover 60% of the samples collected could not receive accreditation because either incorrect procedures had been used or they had suffered interference.

Comprehensive and representative samples needed
Professionals continuously involved with soils investigations are well aware of the potential shortcomings of such surveys and how reports can be influenced. It is therefore extremely important that the information is seen to be gathered in a credible way i.e. with sufficient numbers of boreholes at sufficient depths and intervals in order to obtain a comprehensive and representative sample of ground conditions over the whole site.

In this case the applicant has stated that 9 boreholes will be taken on a 60 metre grid over the site. On first impressions this seems a reasonable approach. However when one looks at the location plan for these boreholes it becomes evident that they are on the widest grid possible with the majority (two thirds) on the periphery of the site where there is likely to be least contamination.

Boreholes need to be correctly sited
To give an analogy, the further one goes from the source of noise, the less sound one hears until a point is reached whereby it is impossible to distinguish the original noise from any background sound.

The same principle applies to contamination. The further one goes from the central location of any ground contamination the less contamination is encountered until a point is reached whereby none will be present.

Site periphery will be less contaminated
The periphery of the site will self-evidently be the least contaminated. Had both the EA and IWC consultants been asked to comment on and take responsibility for the number/location of boreholes they would have no doubt noted this fact and challenged it. If, as can happen, the boreholes are in fact taken even closer to the river the likelihood is that very little if any contamination will be found and the site declared to have little or no contamination and present a minimal threat (if any) to the environment.

Such a conclusion would not carry any credibility given the extent of ship building/construction activity in Cowes circa 1910 -1950’s (note many houses in the area still have asbestos tiles) which makes it inconceivable that asbestos and heavy metals were not dumped on this site. Note this site received uncontrolled waste deposits since 1913.

Accurate samples needed
To conclude, I would not be surprised, unless the boreholes are taken on a much tighter grid giving a comprehensive and representative sample of ground conditions over the whole site, if, on the present basis, the site were to be declared to have little or insignificant levels of contamination.

I have urged the LPA Case Officer to bear this in mind when considering the results of the investigation and preparing his report.

Image: Jeremy Buckingham MLC under CC BY 2.0

Monday, 14th January, 2013 9:53am


ShortURL: http://wig.ht/2apG

Filed under: Cowes, East Cowes, Letter to the Editor

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.


  1. If 60% of the samples were unusable, at least that many need to be re-taken, surely, if only to fulfil the original brief? And if none of the samples (good or bad) was tested for asbestos, then the results are incomplete and inconclusive. As with children’s homework, it all needs to be done again, and properly this time!

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence…

  2. James Luke

    16.Jan.2013 11:39am

    The whole system seems to rely on trust with no independent oversight.

    A major multi-national that will make many millions of pounds in profit should this planning application go ahead. They are paying Consultants to prove that the development should go ahead.

    I believe this type of analysis should be conducted independently.

    To make matters worse, it is unclear what the punishment is if the planning application reports prove incorrect. For example, the Applicant’s noise report contains questionable claims about the noise generated by the proposed equipment. If they do get permission and then build the plant, what happens if they fail to meet the stated noise assumptions? From what I’ve heard their planning permission will not be revoked! They will simply be told off or fined – something that is easily manageable with the large profits they will make.

    In light of recent Corporate scandals, how much can we trust these companies?


    18.Jan.2013 1:10pm

    Historical research shows that the perimeter of the site where most of these boreholes will be taken follows the line of enclosure of the former oyster beds and before them the salterns. So whatever soil samples they get from these areas, they won’t provide any worthwhile information about the levels of contamination from the waste which was deposited from at least 1912 onwards (County Press records).

  4. James Luke

    6.Apr.2013 1:58pm


    After months or argument and objections concerning the risk of asbestos contamination at the site, the IWC Planning Department has just published the latest soil report. It states,

    “Asbestos containing materials were encountered within the near surface waste and capping material.”

    This is after months of denial by the Applicant and accusations of scaremongering by Councillors. If it had not been for the diligence of the objectors this issue would never have been discovered.

    This now raises critical questions:

    1. should the Applicant be allowed to disturb contaminated land and risk the health of their workers and the population?
    2. are the Applicant’s plans feasible given they were planning to use the soil to form the bunds surrounding the site.

    • wightywight

      6.Apr.2013 5:14pm

      James Luke:

      What are the prospects now of the applicant offering to *clean up* the site by removing the ‘top soil’ – not sure how deep the “near surface waste and capping material”..is?
      Any ideas on that?
      Is it feasible to clean up a site such as this by digging the contamination out and taking away (to contaminate another site somewhere!!)the soil..?
      What might be likely costs of that anyway…?
      Or is it just physically impossible to remove the contamination due to the site position or whatever..?

      My immediate concerns will be that the applicant will assure the Planning they will undertake that as a condition of planning…is that a possibility?

      This is a huge contract and there’s a fair bit of money spilling about so small millions wouldn’t necessarily put off this applicant… what’s the views of the WRAP etc on this.
      Great news in many respects but it possible only opens up a new front to fight on removal of the contamination. Any studies at all done on that, even ‘amateur’ assessments?



      • James Luke

        6.Apr.2013 10:22pm

        The soil contaminated with Asbestos was going to be excavated and used in the bunds.

        There are recommendations in the consultants report that any contaminated soil must be capped, all workers should be wearing protective gear, etc.

        I suspect that if you pay enough it’s possible to clean up most types of contamination.

        However, this is just one reason to object to this plant. In addition, there is the air quality issue (where we are having similar arguments over the quality of the assessments), noise, dust and visual impact.

        We have to keep campaigning to ensure that the same spin that dismissed our concerns on asbestos isn’t allowed to dismiss our concerns on air pollution, dust, noise and visual impact.

        • I’m wondering whether cleaning up asbestos outdoors may have implications for more than the protected workers doing the job – fibres floating off in the air, perhaps. Whereas indoors it’s a contained environment.

          • James Luke

            6.Apr.2013 10:52pm

            Excavating soil contaminated with asbestos immediately adjacent to a public footpath used by runners, cyclists and walkers must be a risk to the public.

    • Congratulations James Luke, on getting this far through sheer determination.

      • James Luke

        6.Apr.2013 5:57pm

        I can’t take any credit for this – the credit goes to Harvey and others who have tirelessly pursued this issue.

        Personally, I feel that the Council Officers should have been doing this work!!

        My thanks go out to my friends and colleagues in WRAP who have done the real work!

    • Bystander

      6.Apr.2013 6:31pm

      @James Luke The treacherous Councillors should hopefully just have time for their swan-song of now accusing the Planning Department of scaremongering before they are unceremoniously dumped in the forthcoming elections.

    • retiredhack

      6.Apr.2013 6:33pm

      @James Luke: James (or anyone), can you point me in the direction of (documented) claims by councillors of scaremongering? (I don’t doubt you for a moment that it’s occurred, it’s just that now would be a good time to remind them of what they said.)

  5. Black Dog

    6.Apr.2013 4:05pm

    James Luke, I take my hat off to you and others for pursuing this matter.

    The Applicant, The HSE, The Planning Department, Councillors Pugh and Brown – Not fit for purpose

    This entire application stinks of corruption and must be halted. In fact if the Applicant took the honorable way out and abandoned the PFI contract it would do the Island a big favour.

    Let us face facts:

    Why would a private company want to take on this contract? Because they see mountains of cash coming their way for the next 25 years – INDEXED LINKED

    Where is it possible for any company to secure a 25 year contract INDEXED LINKED other than on the Isle of Wight?

    When this Government is shutting down Indexed linked pensions, because they can no longer be afforded, we are being encouraged to enter into an INDEX LINKED 25 YEAR CONTRACT – WHY?

    Let Islanders not forget that this PFI contract will bleed finances away from essential services like Schools, Child Protection, Social and Elderly Care. They will all be negatively impacted by this contract.

    I hope that there are break clauses within the contract so that we can ditch it as soon as possible.

    Let us start by ditching Councillor Pugh and his bunch of inept colleagues on the 2nd May

  6. Re-reading the details at the top of the topic again, about borehole readings, it is breathtaking the applicant thought they could get away with what they supplied. Dozey old Isle of Wight, they’ll never notice… They weren’t reckoning on James Luke et al!

    • James Luke

      6.Apr.2013 11:30pm

      Harvey and others are the ones to congratulate!

      Surprisingly, I believe that WRAP’s assessment was that the latest boreholes were still not adequate for a proper assessment. We did not believe that either the number of the position of the boreholes was sufficient to properly evaluate the site …. yet they still turned up contamination.

      Similar objections are being raised on the air quality assessment. WRAP are campaigning to ensure that the proposed air quality monitoring uses the correct test equipment positioned at the correct locations.

      I do wonder why ordinary members of the public are required to police these matters. Surely, Council Officers should be doing this?

      • Yes, it’s extraordinary that WRAP have had to become experts on this because IWC aren’t doing the job themselves. I can only speculate to myself why this would be so…

        • Black Dog

          7.Apr.2013 9:47am

          If regime change is is delivered on May 2nd this entire mess will be dealt with swiftly.

          By voting in candidates who actually care and represent their wards before party politics, we can take back control from these despots, over inflated directors and officers.

          Make your votes count by voting anything other than Conservative

      • downwind resident

        7.Apr.2013 1:02pm

        Would that be the same Council Officer who instructed the Regulatory Committee, to ignore the fact that the proposed asphalt plant will be emitting hazardous particulate contamination, at the hearing for the Environmental Permitby Eurovia recently?
        Has the statutory ambient air quality survey of the Medina Valley been undertaken yet and if so by whom?
        Certainly not the Council officers!

        • Black Dog

          7.Apr.2013 1:31pm

          There are very many unanswered questions regarding this and other contracts this regime has signed the Island up for. If the Independents can prove (with the help of ordinary council workers) wrong-doings, I am absolutely certain that they will pursue any and all legal remedies available to them – No one should be excluded Councillors, Directors (past and present) managers and the companies themselves. So if it were proved (as PE suggests) that Teflon Steve Beynon eased the path by breaking the rules or the law the new regime must seen financial redress and prosecute – if the law has been broken.

          If Pughtin does not settle with Janet Newton I am sure she would be only too happy to tell all.

Add comment