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Conservationists demand action to stop landfill site slipping into the sea at mouth of Devon estuary


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The Angling Trust and Marine Conservation Society have written to Torridge District Council and Devon County Council urging them to take action to stop Northam Burrows landfill site, at the mouth of the Taw and Torridge estuary, being washed into the sea.

Large quantities of plastic and other household waste have been washed into the sea with every storm over the past five years, and there are concerns that this could lead to a catastrophic pollution of this Site of Special Scientific Interest which is vitally important for numerous fish, including threatened stocks of salmon, sea trout and bass.

Torridge District Council owns the Burrows landfill site, but the contents are owned by Devon County Council. Now covered with grass, the site extends over 70 acres and contains some 650,000 cubic metres of refuse.

A section of the landfill was exposed in storms more than five years ago, since when local residents and anglers have tried to get both Councils to take action to stop the ongoing pollution, with limited success.

In 2011 a local petition of 1,000 names was sent to Geoffrey Cox, MP who passed it on to Torridge District Council, but no reply was received. If the site continues to be eroded there could be significant environmental and public health risks for this very sensitive environment which is very popular with anglers, holiday-makers and birdwatchers.

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Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal, said: “It is simply unacceptable for the authorities to allow a landfill site to slide gradually into the sea and there is a significant risk of a major pollution incident from heavy metals and other poisons if there is a catastrophic failure of the coastline.

"The Councils cannot continue to bury their heads in the sand. This problem will not go away unless they act.”

Dr Sue Kinsey, Senior Pollution Policy Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “We are surprised and shocked that this has been allowed to happen for so long, since the District and County Councils were first made aware of the problem.

"Nationally, we have seen a doubling of the density of litter on UK beaches found by our beach surveyors since 2004, with a significant proportion routinely made up of the kind of material that should be easy to dispose of without the threat of endangering marine wildlife. The leaking of a landfill site into the sea makes a mockery of the efforts of individuals, businesses and organisations – including local authorities – to try to address the waste problem.”

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