Dumping in Whitsand Bay

RPBC has been happy to support the 'Stop Dumping in Whitsand Bay' campaign,  calling for a halt to the dumping of millions of tonnes of contaminated sludge close to the recently-declared Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).

Over six million tonnes of spoil – mainly dredged from the River Tamar to enable the passage of ships to Devonport Dockyard – have been dumped at the site over the past 30 years. Deaths of experienced divers on the Scylla, the Naval ship sunk a decade ago to create an artificial reef, have been recorded by the coroner as being due to disorientation caused by siltation.

Local campaigners have worked hard for many years to get the dumping stopped, for example with a 'Hands Across the Beach' demonstration in 2010, and more mass protests in January 2014 and December 2015, all attended by hundreds of concerned people.  

Incredibly, all this hard work has paid off! It was announced in 2017 that the dump site would be moved to a location further offshore, towards the Eddystone Lighthouse. This is a great victory for local people, Whitsand Bay and the MCZ, although it's a somewhat bittersweet win, as the dredged material will still be dumped at sea. However, the new site is near a Plymouth Marine Laboratory scientific buoy, so it will at least be possible to monitor the impact of the dumping on a previously clean site - something that was impossible at Whitsand, since dumping had gone on for such a long time there.

Ideally, there would be no dumping at sea at all. In some other European countries, dredged sludge is collected, dried out and mixed as aggregate in concrete used for large civil engineering projects.

We are very grateful to campaigners Tonny and Deb Steenhagen, who chose to donate the remnant money from their stop-dumping legal fund to RPBC, as the local organisation with aims most closely allied to their own, after the dumping was moved away from Whitsand Bay. This sizeable donation of £2,268.30 is very much appreciated and will really help us to continue with our work to keep the bay clean for people and wildlife.

This video, shot by campaigner Dave Peake, shows one of the dredgers flushing out its tanks just off Rame Head after dumping silt in Whitsand Bay.


Watch 'Making Waves', a film made by local young people to raise awareness about the dumping issue.