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Chemical Spills (River Tamar)

Volume 605: debated on Thursday 4 February 2016

1. What steps her Department is taking to monitor and prevent future chemical spills from quarrying in the headwaters of the River Tamar. (903444)

We take the issue of chemical spills very seriously, particularly in the context of the Tamar. Such spills have caused significant damage to biodiversity and, specifically, to fish. We are analysing the pH levels and the dissolved solids to prevent future occurrences.

I am grateful for the Minister’s response. Will he ask his Department to review the decision of the Environment Agency not to pursue legal action against Glendinning for the major pollution incident relating to Pigsdon quarry in 2014?

Legal proceedings were brought and the decision was made by Truro Crown court, under the hon. Judge Carr, to instead impose an enforcement order. Some £70,000 has been contributed by the company, but, much more importantly, five new lagoons have been put in place to deal with the incident and chemical processes are being used to prevent a recurrence.

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman comes in, I emphasise that we are discussing the Tamar, not the Dee.

Indeed, sir. Cornwall is well-known for its history of mineral extraction, whether it be china clay or Cornish tin. Cheshire is about to enter into mineral extraction as well through fracking. The Government have gone back on their pledges on monitoring and preventing chemical spills from fracking rigs. While the Minister is considering the potential pollution of the Tamar, will he also consider whether there is sufficient monitoring to prevent chemical leaks from fracking in the headwaters of the River Dee, like that in the headwaters of the Tamar?

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for an ingenious connection, although the nature of the extraction in the two cases is quite different. The Environment Agency takes its responsibilities very seriously, whether in respect of quarrying or fracking. If there are particular concerns, I would be happy to sit down with him to discuss them in more detail.