Whether you are a climate change sceptic or not there is little doubt that based on the recorded mean tide levels at Southend sea levels in the Thames Estuary are rising. In fact, according to the review between 1999 and 2014 this rise equated to approximately 4.5mm per year. Whilst this change is a little head of expectations the report goes onto state “Based on the evidence available, sea level rise is taking place within the bounds of what the TE2100 Plan expected and the timings of the recommendations in the Plan therefore remain appropriate.”
From a scientific point of view it is always satisfying to see real data reflecting predicted but from a social perspective the impact of a sea level rise of between 90cm and 2.7m by 2100 is significant. With such high levels and the potential hydraulic continuity between the Thames and superficial strata, the TE2100 Plan also highlights the risk of groundwater flooding, and the risk of erosion. These last two consequences may give rise to the mobilisation of contamination with rising groundwater increasing the mobility of contaminants through leaching or through driving gaseous contaminants towards the surface. The lower part of the Thames Estuary contains flood defences formed of contaminating material and a number of low lying areas have been raised through landfilling which through overtopping and erosion could lead to pollutants being released into the water environment. This review continues to provide the supporting evidence that contaminated land risk assessments as set out by Environment Agency’s document on the Guiding Principles on Land Contamination should take account of climate change (see earlier post on Risk Assessment – How should I take climate change into account?).
To download the TE2100 Plan please go to https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/322061/LIT7540_43858f.pdf and the Non Technical Summary for the five year review can be found here.