ABSTRACT

In the UK, statutory control of the disposal of wastes to sea from ships is provided by the Food and Environment Protection Act (Part II,1985), and monitoring of the environmental effects of licensed activity has been conducted by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) over several years, In order to validate hypotheses for change, to check for any unforeseen consequences, and to provide feedback to the licensing and enforcement process

The disposal of sewage sludge and industrial wastes to sea from ships has now ceased and, while a small amount of work to examine any post-cessation changes at the former continues at key sites, most monitoring effort is now directed at dredged material disposal sites This paper provides examples of the range of sampling designs and survey methodology that have been employed by CEFAS scientists over the years In order to evaluate environmental effects, with particular reference to studies of the benthic fauna Illustrations are also provided of the means by which the results can contribute to better management of this sea disposal option

INTRODUCTION

Regulation of the disposal of wastes to sea from ships In UK waters under THE Food and Environment Protection Act, Part I1 (Great Britain - Parliament, 1985) requires (inter alra) that, In deciding upon an application for sea disposal, the licensing authority ‘shall have regard to the need to protect the marine environment, the living resources which it supports and human health, and to prevent Interference with legitimate uses of the sea’ In response, a programme of field monitoring of conditions at and around disposal sites was established to facilitate the decision-making process The aims of this work are to determine that environmental conditions at newly designated sites are suitable for the commencement of disposal activities and, In the case of established sites, to ensure that predictions concerning limitations of effects continue to be met, and that disposal operations conform with licence conditions The outcome of field work contributes directly to the licensing and enforcement process, thereby ensuring that any evidence of unacceptable changes or practices are immediately acted upon The disposal of industrial wastes to sea (including incineration practices)w as phased out in the early 1990s, while sewage-sludge disposal ceased in 1998, in response to the requirements of the EC Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (European Communitles, 1991) Sea disposal activities are now almost entirely confined to dredged material, arising from the maintenance of port and harbour facilities and their approach channels and, periodically, from capital projects such as those involving channel deepening to provide access for larger vessels There are some 150 sites designated for the disposal of such material around the UK coast (not all of w111ch are used in any one year see Figure 1) receiving, In total, approximately4 0–50 million tonnes annually The quantities disposed of range from a few hundred to several million tonnes, depending on location

Fig 1 Amounts deposited at UK dredged material disposal sites In 1996 (available in full paper)

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