Measures are in place in case of blockades on the River Tees in protest at mass crustacean deaths, a meeting has heard.

Mass fatalities of sealife on Teesside’s coastline have sparked demonstrations from fishermen and conservationists this year – with two councils calling for a fresh independent investigation to be launched into the piles of dead crustaceans.

A Defra-led study published in May suggested a harmful algal bloom may have been a factor in the deaths at Redcar, Marske and Saltburn and Seaton Carew, although no single cause was identified.

But there has been some disagreement at Defra’s findings despite the body insisting its joint investigations have been thorough. Dredging was ruled out as a likely cause of the troubles in Defra’s May report.

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The Northern Echo: The rapid decrease in sea life has coincided with “apocalyptic” piles of dead crustaceans washing up along the coastline The rapid decrease in sea life has coincided with “apocalyptic” piles of dead crustaceans washing up along the coastline

And bosses at the nearby Teesworks project say no dredging has started yet in the Tees for its activities. But a meeting on Monday heard confirmation that this would begin next month as part of work at the vast new South Bank Quay.

John McNicholas, from the South Tees Development Corporation, told Monday’s audit and risk committee about the “sensitivity” of dredging given work started in September – referring to “reputational issues” to manage.

He gave “blockades of the river, or whatever we may expect” as one example due to the mass crustacean deaths. Audit committees are in place to keep an eye on the risks a body may face – and processes to manage them.

After the meeting, Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) officials confirmed Mr McNicholas’s comment was offering an example of the possible risks they were managing – with no protests expected on the river. Past tests have shown not all material dredged for the vast new £107m heavy lift quay at Teesworks will be suitable for disposal at sea.

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An 18-page licence for the first phase of the quay works states material dredged between four co-ordinates in the river will not be suitable for sending out to sea – as it could cause “toxic or harmful effects to sensitive receptors”.

Progress on regeneration efforts at the Teesworks site was also offered to the committee.

All 156 of the large diameter tubular steel piles have now been installed at the quay.
Mr McNicholas said they were working on multiple sites for ground remediation. Work on the new South Bank link road – a 1.7km route – will begin next month with a plan to finish it in early spring next year.

The committee was also told the demolition programme was ahead of schedule. A report for the meeting stated: “Notably, the primary blow-down phases of the Blast Furnace and BOS Plant are scheduled to take place in October and September respectively – three months earlier than planned.”

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