August 31, 2008

Trouble Brewing Underfoot?

With Brixham's regeneration programme gathering pace, the town anxiously awaits Tesco's ultimate plans, hopefully to be presented next month.

However, with the future of Oxen Cove, Freshwater Quarry and Northern Arm still at the consultancy stage, a note of concern has begun to creep into the agenda.

What started as a 'whisper' among a section of residents has grown to deep concerns over certain aspects surrounding the new fish market development.

The main fear seems to be the possibility of raw sewage contaminating the fish quay area following days of torrential rain, when a 'permitted amount' of untreated human guano could escape into the outer harbour.

The question being raised by some folks is: "After spending millions on constructing a modern fish market, could Health and Safety close it down because of sewage contamination?"

Many years ago, South West Water promised that after its Clean Sweep programme, 'screened sewage would only enter the Bay on a once in five-yearly basis.'

That was subsequently amended to, 'a permitted overflow into the sea nine times a year'.

We all know untreated sewage has polluted the water around the present fish market and Oxen Cove on several occasions over the years, mainly via a storm valve at the base of the old slipway and from another outlet close to the yacht club.

We are also aware South West Water was recently fined over a problem concerning damaged pumps.

Thinking ahead, some citizens are concerned that if the storm valve at the base of the old slipway is built over, and raw sewage leaks, for whatever reason, there will be no tidal or wind movements to take it out to sea.

It could remain 'pooled' under the present fish market causing all manner of health problems.

Problem number two: the other outfall close to the yacht club likewise remains a possible source of escaping effluent.

At the start of the regeneration programme we were told SWW would construct something called an attenuation tank in Oxen Cove to retain excessive storm water, prior to it being pumped directly to Brokenberry. That doesn't now appear to be on SWW's plans.

I've tried, and sadly could get no response from SWW regarding the construction of said attenuation tank and, raising my concerns to certain Torbay Council officers, I was politely informed that 'raw sewage cannot enter the harbour via the old storm valves about to be 'covered' by the new building'. I just hope they're right.

It's my understanding that the Government's environmental officer, contacted by 'concerned residents', in conjunction with Torbay Council's environmental department, will arrange a site visit to hopefully resolve these fears.

Far better it gets sorted now while construction is still underway. Perhaps then we can progress with regeneration proper!

HAVING experienced a surge of national pride over Team GB's achievements in Beijing during the past weeks, on Sunday last, Brixham quietly saluted the endeavours of another team of heroes... although they won't thank me for calling them so.

Cox'n Mark Criddle, the crew of the Torbay Lifeboat, and the lads from Portland SAR Flight, deservedly received awards plus the community's deep gratitude for rescuing the crew of the freighter, Ice Prince, in January this year.

People from different parts of the community gathered in the Berry Head Hotel to warmly applaud the action taken by the various teams of volunteers and professionals who'd probably clicked the pause button on TV's Songs of Praise to go to the aid of the battered ship and her desperate crew.

Rounding the Brixham breakwater in darkness, once clear of Berry Head, Mark and his crew would have experienced the full force of the horrendous seas screaming up Channel.

The thoughts and fears raging through the minds of those men during the next few hours would have been only slightly compensated by the extensive training programmes laid down by the RNLI.

Taking your vessel, time and time again into life-threatening danger to save other mariners in trouble, is almost beyond comprehension. They do it because it is their calling. They do it because it needs to be done. At the time it's simply a matter of life or death.

Only later, maybe days on, in moments of quiet reflection, looking back, perhaps it seemed that type of 'shout' became a cross between salvation and suicide. Nevertheless, the sea is a safer place because of men such as these.

After Lifeboat chairman Malcolm Cooke welcomed the audience we were shown a video reconstruction of the event.

As loud and as frightening as it was, it couldn't hope to portray the anguished torment of men and boat against the angry, unforgiving sea.

Commander Peter Sparks RN from the Type 22 Frigate HMS Cumberland spoke of his pride and admiration for the Salcombe and Torbay lifeboats and the professionalism of the helicopter crew from Portland.

Mark eased the tension in the room by firstly explaining that he'd found it easier going on the 'shout' than standing there explaining what happened.

Acknowledging everyone, ashore and afloat, connected with the unforgettable incident, he paid special tribute to every member of the Torbay lifeboat station.

During the vellum presentations to crew members Dr Alex Rowe, Darryl Farley, Nigel Coulton, John Ashford, Roger Good and Mat Tyler, a slight hesitation came when mechanic Mat seemed to be missing.

Turned out he'd taken his young son to spend a penny. Wonderful!

Skimming through the events of that night, Mark explained that just after 7pm, when his bleeper went off, he'd been sitting in the launderette, waiting for his children's clothes to finish.

Eight hours later, arriving home to a cuddle from his lovely wife, she'd whispered: "Did you get the children's clothes cleaned?"

Chairman of Brixham Council, Chris Bedford, summed up the evening by expressing Torbay's eternal gratitude to these extraordinary 'normal' men, saying: "Courage is a combination of harnessing fear and excitement and turning that emotion into calm dedication." Amen to that!

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