Eastbourne MP hits out at failure to take samples of chemical haze

Stephen Lloyd, MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon SUS-170614-095516001
Stephen Lloyd, MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon SUS-170614-095516001

The Eastbourne MP has today spoken of his frustration with the authorities’ apparent failure to collect samples of the Birling Gap chemical haze.

This comes after a gas cloud descended on the beauty spot on Sunday, August 27, leaving hundreds with streaming eyes and sore throats.

The Environment Agency and Maritime and Coastguard Agency are still investigating the incident, and the fire service said at the time gas monitoring equipment did not result in sufficient readings to identify the gas.

Stephen Lloyd MP said in a statement, “The latest reports I’ve received from the Environment Agency are that the Marine and Coastguard Agency are, most likely, pinning the gas on one of up to 180 ships who were in the vicinity around the time of the gas cloud.

“The challenge they tell me is identifying which ship, as they are unlikely to own up to doing what appears to have been an illegal act, plus the boats can only be properly assessed when they berth.

“I am frustrated that none of the bodies involved appear to have thought to take air samples of the haze, so we all remain unclear what it’s make up actually was.

“This, if true, is a systemic breakdown which is unacceptable. Consequently I will be writing to all the relevant CEOs to ask their Agency’s draft a robust protocol for air samples to be immediately collected in future similar incidents, so we can be reassured such an apparent oversight won’t happen again.

“A chemist over the weekend told me that it could be as simple as blowing a bicycle pump into a plastic bag in the affected area and then sealing it for checking later.

“Simple, effective but not, it appears, done by any of the statutory bodies dealing with the problem this time.

“I will though keep pressing the authorities to publish whatever information they do have, as without that we are all none the wiser. Not a good place to be in regard to preparedness for future incidents or to reassure people who were affected last Sunday week.”

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said in a statement on August 29, “Gas monitoring equipment was used in the immediate area on August 27 when the fire and rescue service attended the scene.

“This did not result in sufficient readings to conclusively identify the gas. This makes it more difficult to discover where it came from.”