THE TEES Valley Mayor has moved to deny any link between the development of Teessworks and the death of sea life along the North East coast.

Local analysts and fishermen believe the prevalence of the chemical Pyridine in dead crustaceans is a direct consequence of dredging on the Tees riverbed, despite government investigators refuting the claims.

Ben Houchen has been criticised over the issue, with many believing work for the new Freeport development could be responsible for the chemicals. 

But the Mayor has vehemently denied that any dredging has taken place on his behalf. The new £100m South Bank quay project has not involved any dredging yet and wouldn’t for “quite some time”, he said. 

“I want to once again make it clear that no dredging of the River Tees has taken place at the Teesworks site, or in respect of the Teesside Freeport, at any point,” he told The Northern Echo.

Read more: No plans for new investigation into North East sea life deaths

However, dredging has taken place by “The Orca” – a 79-metre dredger weighing more than 3,000 tonnes - on behalf of PD Ports at the mouth of the river.

PD Ports are the statutory harbour authority on the River Tees - with jurisdiction over 11 miles from the Tees Estuary to the Tees Barrage.

The Northern Echo: A map of the current Freeport area on Teesside A map of the current Freeport area on Teesside

But when asked whether they believed their dredging was responsible for the marine life crisis along the North East coast, PD Ports pointed to the official ruling recorded by investigators. 

An Environment Agency investigation found the chemical had no role in causing the crustacean deaths, despite it being detected in samples analysed.

“The huge quantity of Pyridine that would have to be present to cause an incident of this scale and duration, combined with the powerful dilution effect of the sea, make chemical contamination extremely unlikely,” it ruled.

Read more: Mysterious killer continues to wipe out North East sea life

Mr Houchen has pressed the governmental bodies to re-investigate the dredging claim after a meeting with local biologists and volunteers.

Information obtained through a Freedom of Information request found Mr Houchen asked for “further dredge sampling from the spoil grounds to be taken and independently examined to clarify whether contaminated dredge waste may or may not be a cause”

The Northern Echo: The River TeesThe River Tees

Despite the latest increase in marine life deaths, PD Ports said it had no further comment to add on a statement it made it March.

It read: “We have been equally disturbed by the number of deceased crustaceans that appeared across North East beaches late last year.

“We continue to fully support the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), the Environmental Agency (EA), DEFRA and other official bodies to provide all information we have available to assist with ongoing enquiries, all of which have subsequently ruled out dredging activity as a possible cause.

“We remain wholly committed to the conservation of the River Tees.”

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