East Suffolk Council is continuing its investigations into the exposure of oil deposits on Lowestoft North Beach as a result of the historic Eleni V spill.
While we do not believe that the consistency, composition and quantities of the oil residues involved have posed a threat to the environment or to marine life to date, we appreciate that concerns have been raised which we are actively seeking to address.
We have been monitoring the issue since 2018 and a range of discussions have taken place with East Suffolk Environmental Health Officers and its Coastal Management Team.
However, we are aware that continuing erosion may exacerbate the situation, particularly in light of recent high tides which have accelerated the rate of exposure, revealing larger outcrops of oil in the last few weeks.
We are also aware that the consistency of the material is changing, with more sticky oil residues present than previously.
There are also other complicating factors to consider in determining the most sensible course of action, including the effects of any excavations on the rate of coastal erosion (as well as the local environment in general) and the consequences for Anglian Water sewer pipes which are situated nearby.
We have decided that at this stage, it will be possible to remove some of the loose, drier material without causing damage to the immediate area. The material will be removed by East Suffolk Norse, working with a specialist disposal company. This work will be constantly reviewed and will cease immediately if there is any risk of pollutants being released into the marine environment.
It is not clear how much of the oil we can remove at this stage however as more deposits are exposed by erosion, we will aim to remove them wherever possible. Work is continuing to identify a cost-effective way of locating the buried deposits to give us the option of dealing with them before they are exposed by the tide, if necessary.
Our Coastal Management Team are currently reviewing coastal erosion between Corton and Gunton and this will help determine future plans for managing this area. Any information gathered during this work will be used to support decisions about removing oil deposits going forward.
We are aware that some members of the public have tried to remove deposits themselves and although we understand this was well intentioned, we would ask people not to disturb the deposits as this may release pollutants into the local environment and therefore requires removal by specialist contractors.