BEST Responds: Sediment Plume At South Basin

October 30, 2015

“This plume event reinforces, however unintentionally, our point that the scale and location of landfill would never have got the green light had it not been for the pressure of the America’s Cup,” the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability taskforce [BEST] said today.

BEST added that “now that ACBDA and the government have a self-generated example of the magnitude of mistakes than can accompany their actions, they would be well-advised to do the right thing and commission a credible EIA covering the end-uses before any approval for them is issued.”

This follows after the ACBDA said the depositing of dredged material from the North Channel into the South Basin in Dockyard “has, expectedly, created a sediment plume that may have some in the community concerned about the impact on the marine environment.”

The ACBDA, as facilitators of South Basin infill project, said they want the public to know that this “sediment plume was anticipated and measures have been put in place to both contain the deposited material and monitor the turbidity in the water.”

Last week the Ministry of Public Works said the widening of the North Channel — to accommodate the new generation of large cruise ships — will see a 24 hour, seven day a week operation dredging operation that will take approximately one month to complete.

The Niccolò Machiavelli dredging ship in Bermuda:

NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI Dredger

A statement from the environmental group said, “The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability taskforce [BEST] has noted that ACBDA and their environmental advisors were quick to declare that the formation of a plume of sediment at the South Basin landfill site ‘was expected’.

“What they didn’t say and likely didn’t expect was that the plume would escape beyond the barriers that had been constructed. We agree that short term spikes of fine sediment may not be ‘highly threatening’ to marine communities. However, turbidity is just one facet of a myriad of possible impacts.

“What if, instead of a visible plume of fine sediment, the fugitive plume was comprised of paint solvents, or exotic and toxic boat-bottom paints, or the numerous hydrocarbons and other chemicals associated with commercial boatyards and marinas?

“Not only would the effects of such a plume be bio-hazardous to benthic life, the plume itself would be wellnigh invisible and therefore unnoticeable until the damage was done and irreversible.

“The lesson to be learned here is that we are severely taxed to predict and cope with a visible plume. Invisible plumes of effluents from a boatyard and other industrial marine activities ultimately slated for this site will be impossible to trace, track or remedy, hence the need for a credible Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] and public consultation exercise before the end-uses for the site are selected and permitted.

“This plume event is a self-evident indicator that declarations that ‘we know what we’re doing and have everything under control’ are misguided, somewhat arrogant and fall far short of reality.

“Part of the reason they were able to anticipate plume formation and escape is because of the Environmental Impact Assessment addendum done at the very last minute by BEC.

“What the public needs to realise is that the emergency EIA was done solely for the landfill, not for the interim America’s Cup Event Village, and not for the end-use plans that include a commercial and maintenance boatyard and a luxury marina.

“This plume event reinforces, however unintentionally, our point that the scale and location of landfill would never have got the green light had it not been for the pressure of the America’s Cup.

“Now that ACBDA and the government have a self-generated example of the magnitude of mistakes than can accompany their actions, they would be well-advised to do the right thing and commission a credible EIA covering the end-uses before any approval for them is issued.”

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Comments (28)

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  1. Jahmani says:

    Would someone please explain what the difference is between this localized sediment plume and the sediment that is stirred up during a winter storm or hurricane?

    • sage says:

      One is natural, not as harmful to marine life and consists of less material.

      • Build a Better Bermuda says:

        Not so sure about the ‘less material’ statement. What is the difference of a storm plume stirring up materials to the point of less than 5′ of visibility, to a landfill plume stirring up sediment to the point of less than 5′ of visibility. The fact that one is natural and one is man made, doesn’t automatically make one worse than the other.

      • Jahmani says:

        I thought the material being deposited was from the north channel , is that not natural?

    • Pumba & Timone says:

      All winter long the sentiment is stirred up, when a storm is approaching it gets stirred up, when a ship passes by it gets stirred up. It happens. The sediment itself is damaging and chokes of marine life when it gets to thick.. So while there are some short term negative affects with dredging, there are negative side effects if we don’t dredge. Whats better? Dredging today or having every ship that passes stir up tons of sediment, or worse get stuck.

    • Panulirus says:

      The density of the natural sediment plume during a winter gale is no where near that produced by the latest dredging. Suspended sediment concentrations are much higher. Word is that the bubble curtain, designed to contain the plume, failed because the barge which carries the sediment from the dredge site back to the dump site ran over the compressed air line which then entangled in its propeller pod and pulled the line and air compressor overboard! (looks like those big diesel powered compressors they use for pneumatic jackhammering for road works etc)

  2. Terry says:

    Well Stuart et al the bottom paint et al is and has been there for years with no complaint from you.
    Along with all the freshly painted bottoms.

    Lets go back to red lead and kill everything.

    BEST must be a new arm of the PLP.

    • Herb says:

      Thanks Terry thats exactly what i was going to comment on, been painting bottoms there since 1809 when the british navy were here.

    • cole says:

      Wrong again. Bottom paint is heavily regulated because of pressure by the National Trust and BEST and many others!

  3. Most people have no idea what is going on here. :-(

  4. Worst says:

    I usually support environmental goals, but I disagree with BEST on this. America’s Cup should be given an exception given the nature of the event, and BEST’s complaints seem to be mostly what-if speculation.

    The airport dump is probably much more damaging for the environment than this project will ever be – so let’s focus on the things that matter.

    Be part of the solution, BEST, not the problem. We have enough nay-sayers on this island.

    • Stuart Hayward says:

      To “Worst”:

      I’m glad you mentioned the airport — because nobody paid attention to what was being done to Castle Harbour when that area was dredged in the 1940′s to provide fill for the airport. It’s been sixty-plus years between then and now but the marine life there hasn’t fully recovered.

      Yes, the airport dump matters, South Basin’s environs matter too. We’re not say “nay”, just let’s do it right.

      • Worst says:

        Honest question – do we have reason to believe that the current work would be conducted in the same manner as the military building a base where they paved over a dozen islands in wartime? I wasn’t around back then, but it seems that standard operating procedure now would recognize the harms of not paying attention to sediment. The question seems to be what more supervision and analysis is needed over and above the procedures already in place.

      • Spit Bouy says:

        Mr. Hayward,

        Projects like this have to be weighed against both the pros & cons. In my opinion the benefits will outweigh the negatives. In castle harbour the dredging and the accompanying silt lasted for years and this & continued over fishing/abuse of the surviving resources is almost certainly what killed off the fish, scallops, conchs & mussels outside of the dredged areas.

        I have fished, swam and hauled in just about every bay in castle harbour and I would bet the main reason it has failed to recover today is probably due more to the continuing effects from the materials & pollution that we carelessly dump and bury at the airport dump on a daily basis.

        My family lived on Southside and most we’re fishermen, farmers etc and they did pay attention to what was happening then. Many did not want to give up their lands & their way of life, however they where powerless to stop it. Believe me the heart break and loss of a way of life put many in their graves. Sadly it was an unfortunate byproduct of the times & while I am sad that I will never see this area before the development and the loss of our way of life I cannot dismiss what building the Base lands and airport did for all Bermudians.

        In dockyard the dredging is taking place in the channels and yes there will be lots of silt but nothing like the amounts from when they built the airport & base lands. Sadly there is the loss of more of our ever so small ‘sea bed & platform’ which is also a valuable fish & turtle nursery etc but the bigger picture is the benefits that it will bring in creating the area in question. Just like the benefits for the whole of Bermuda in the building of the base lands and airport.

        • Stuart Hayward says:

          Spit Bouy,

          We know more these days than we did decades ago about the environmental costs of projects such as the landfilling for the airport. We also know that back then the need for an airport was high. However, no comparable need has been demonstrated for landfilling South Basin. Since there are potential alternative sites that could meet the needs of America’s Cup, the evaluation of the need and the alternatives should have been assessed. That kind of assessment would normally be part of an EIA.

          So that’s just it, “the benefits it will bring” that you refer to haven’t been identified, quantified or measured alongside the possible liabilities it will bring.

          We know better these days. We can’t just resort to the ways we did things in the past (e.g. like allowing horse poop on City streets).

          Below is a partial list of sub projects linked to the South Basin landfill. Only items #1 and #3 have had the environmental impact adequately assessed. In other words, except for items #1 and #3 we DON’T KNOW ENOUGH about the consequences to permit them to go ahead. Is it too much to ask that we use the tools we know of to help us avoid adverse consequences?

          1. dredging of North Channel
          2. dredging of South Channel
          3 landfilling of anywhere from 9 to 11 acres at South Basin (using dredged and imported material)
          4. an Event Village for the America’s Cup
          5. consolidated offices and boatyard for the Marine and Ports Department
          6. a Commercial boatyard
          7. a luxury yacht marina

      • Yellowtail says:

        @ Mr Hayward
        please justify by fact your statement that 60 years( should it not read 70+ ) between then and now **************not fully recovered, I am unaware of any study done then and thus nothing to compare with now as in comparing apples with apples. What has declined exactly. Not picking an argument but your organization seems to require facts.

        • cole says:

          Google castle harbour coral reef. There are lots of scientific studies that support Haywards statement.

    • sage says:

      The stupidest statement I have read for some time. Spoken like a true brown noser.

      • Terry says:

        Called……covering your sediment also known as s*%t.

        Go till youu Southlands garden Stuart.

  5. Longtail says:

    Why is BEST trying to associate this normal and expected sediment plume with a ‘what if’ scenario involving “paint solvents, or exotic and toxic boat-bottom paints, or the numerous hydrocarbons and other chemicals associated with commercial boatyards and marinas”????? Get a grip please…. as Jahmani infers, the sediment is not much different than that caused by a hurricane or winter storm (or for that matter, the localised sediment caused by ferries turning around in the same shallow areas for years on end!!!).

    • Stuart Hayward says:

      Because, Longtail, the ultimate uses planned for the site are industrial, a commercial boatyard and a marina, involving the toxic substances mentioned. Any difficulty we’re having now dealing with a highly visible but relatively benign sediment plume is going to be compounded when the industrial activity kicks in and run-off of toxic materials, known to be emitted from boatyards, produces plumes that aren’t visible.

      We are not equating the two, but pointing to the current event as reason to be cautious about predictable future events.

      • Longtail says:

        Yes you are equating the two, and that is the problem here.
        Mr Hayward, BEST has stated that “This plume event reinforces, however unintentionally, our point that the scale and location of landfill would never have got the green light had it not been for the pressure of the America’s Cup.”
        On the other hand, many persons – including yourself – have stated that the current operations involve a “relatively benign sediment plume”.
        I have no problem with ensuring that appropriate environmental protocols are followed in any future proposed industrial use of this site, but let’s not ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater’ by condemning the current operations because of what might happen in some possible future use of the site.

  6. Dredging says:

    Help please–

    I know what is dredged up is going to be used for the AC village along with other fill that will be needed to firm the ground–BUT isn’t the main reason for the dredging exercise to make room for larger cruise ships so as to “prop up” our failing tourism industry, because the Bermuda tourism product has become obselete and doesn’t attract international attention?

    I would have thought this exercise was dealing with two issues at one time. Why is AC solely taking the lion’s share of the heat on this?

    Sorry I am not sure I read the problem—The hurricanes and winter blows (which cause the “dreaded winter tsunami’s) cause alot of setiment disturbance as well- Is that going to be an OBS problem this winter because they were in power when the storms blew through.

    Is this just politicizing an issue to incite the politcal rhetoric machinery?

  7. Terry says:

    Castle is the most toxic place in Bermuda.

    Three stars to you for bringing that up.

  8. Yesir says:

    What I cannot understand is why we need to reclaim land in Dockyard at HUGE expense to the taxpayer for an event that lasts only 4 weeks when we have recently demonstrated that Hamilton can host the event village. Much more accessible, lots of restaurants and Hamilton workers can simply step out of their offices to enjoy it. Oh wait … Front Street will be closed for weeks: can’t have that can we? Traffic will be like New York for a whole month! No, let’s spend $10 million or whatever it is for an inaccessible hunk of land that we don’t need in Dockyard and kill a few turtles for good measure.

    • Curious says:

      There are many exciting possibilities for Bermuda with AC35. We are capable of finding ways to host this wonderful event and involve many more Bermudians. The communications from ACBDA have been weak and at times they appear to be speaking to themselves – not to our community.

      I support your question about Hamilton and other possible locations in Bermuda. I have not seen any figures that appropriately rule out Morgan’s Point for the location of AC35.

      What would the rental amount for Morgan’s Point be versus the expense and potential damage to our environment by filling in the South Basin at Dockyard? If Artemis can come to an agreement with Morgan’s Point for their base, why was AC35 and ACBDA not successful?

      As ACBDA invites us to all come together and host this wonderful event how are they demonstrating their ability to do the same?

  9. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    Boat owners

    Kiss good by to your prop shaft bearings and your engine cooling systems.