28 December 2010

'Toxic timebomb' safely defused as stricken dredger is dismantled

A ship which threatened to detonate an "environmental time bomb" when it became beached off North Devon has been dismantled. The demolition of a 600-tonne stricken ship in north Devon has been completed, the Environment Agency says. Oil, petrol and asbestos were removed from the 600-tonne vessel before it was dismantled.

Demolition crews this week completed the break-up of the Severn Sands, which slipped its moorings at Fremington on a high tide in September and almost caused a major disaster for local wildlife.

The dredger had briefly raised fears that it would spill its toxic cargo of asbestos, diesel and oil into the Rive Taw estuary.

Relieved onlookers from the nearby Tarka Trail nature walk and cycle route watched in October as the stricken vessel was towed to safety and tied up near Instow Jetty at Bideford.

The final section of the hull was removed from the foreshore this week by Cornwall-based DRS Demolition, following a six-week de-pollution and dismantling operation co-ordinated by the Environment Agency (EA) and North Devon District Council.

The Health and Safety Executive oversaw the removal by DRS of the asbestos-filled funnels and exhausts before the engine room was cleaned and dismantled.

Chris Lawson, Environment Agency spokesman described the work of the contractors as "exemplary" and said there had been "no adverse impact on the environment".

"The engine room and fuel tanks had been entirely washed out and all the tyres, rubbish and hazardous fuels were safely removed, paving the way for the step-by-step dismantling," he added.

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