Acoustic Fencing a response from Valero
We are aware, through our agents Fisher German, that several residents have asked for acoustic fencing to be erected alongside the carriageway to help reduce noise and light pollution. In our letter of 17th January to the most closely affected residents, we informed residents that Valero was in discussions with the land owner, SWTRA, Natural Resources Wales and the Welsh Government regarding the viability of erecting this fencing.
Following consultations with SWTRA, NRW, the Welsh Government and Carmarthen County Council, a number of issues have emerged that restrict our ability to put up acoustic fencing.
Because of the proximity of the bank to the road and the angle of the slope, and therefore the subsequent need for deep, secure foundations, erecting robust fencing would be problematic and is unlikely to significantly reduce visibility of or from the road. In addition, erecting the fencing would be environmentally damaging.
- There is a significant dormouse population in the area that would be disturbed if fencing was to be erected. As a result, NRW have advised us that it is very unlikely they would grant us a licence to put in fencing.
- In order to erect and maintain the fence, an access road to the rear of the fence would need to be built. As part of this work some of the banking would have to be destroyed, causing environmental damage and the removal of most of the trees that have just been replanted and most of the original trees. It may also prove more unsightly in the long term.
- We have been informed that it would take approximately two years to gain the necessary licences to erect the fencing. Environmental consultations have advised that within three to five years the trees will have grown sufficiently to give significantly improved privacy. If the licences were to be granted and a fence erected, many of these trees would have to be removed, so improved privacy cannot be guaranteed.
- No work can be completed in this area during the bird nesting season, from 1st March to 31st July.
- SWTRA have expressed reservations and are against a fence being built, and as the landowner we could not proceed without their agreement.
As previously mentioned, this spring we will be planting Hazel and Blackthorn bushes between the trees we replanted in December. These varieties are dormouse friendly and, once in leaf, should improve density and reduce visibility and noise from the road.
On advice from SWTRA and NRW, we have concluded that erecting acoustic fencing would be detrimental to the environment and local wildlife, and that it is probable that we would be refused the requisite licences to erect it. Even if these were obtained, we have been advised by our environmental consultants that the density achieved by the maturing trees and bushes are likely to prove more beneficial to residents than
fencing, particularly in the long term.
I would like to thank you again for your continued understanding and patience as we continue with the remedial work. Please be assured that we remain committed to the long-term remediation of the affected area. ~ Mark While Director Pipelines & Terminals
The Community Council have received the following letter from Paul Bray, Valero Director European Government & Public Affairs.
"Re: Upcoming A48 Works
As part of our commitment to continue a proactive dialogue with you and members of Llangunnor Community Council regarding the oil leak near Nantycaws, I wanted to let you know about some upcoming remedial work to the A48 eastbound carriageway that will be carried out shortly.
Following the completion of the repair to the pipeline in October, a number of non-urgent and minor reinstatement measures remained outstanding. This included reinstating a 10-15m permanent section of barrier on the eastbound carriageway, minor repairs to highway drainage in the affected area and final surfacing of the top section of the footpath on the embankment leading to the pipeline tie-in. We would also like our environmental consultants to carry out monitoring at six boreholes located near the carriageway.
Due to the proximity of the work to the carriageway and the need to ensure the safety of the work crews, it will be necessary to close one lane of the A48 eastbound carriageway at the affected section. Following approval from the South Wales Trunk Road Agency and in conjunction with Carmarthenshire County Council – who will manage the lane closure, reinstate the barrier and complete the drainage repair – Valero’s contractors will carry out this work across a two day period week commencing 30th January.
All work will be done during normal working hours to ensure minimal disruption to commuters and Nantycaws residents. We apologise for any inconvenience this might cause, but wish to emphasise that as only a short section of one lane of the eastbound carriageway will be closed, we do not anticipate there being any undue interruption during this period. We will also be writing to those residents in Nantycaws closest to the site, as well as to Cllr Elwyn Williams, Adam Price AM and Jonathan Edwards MP to keep them informed of this works.
We anticipate that future work, such as borehole monitoring, will be necessary and might also lead to single lane closures at various times throughout the year that might similarly cause minor inconvenience. We will ensure that Llangunnor Community Council and any nearby affected residents are kept informed in advance of those works.
If you have any queries or concerns regarding the upcoming work, or any other issue relating to the October oil leak, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Please be assured that we remain committed to the long-term remediation of the affected area"
At the December meeting of the Community Council residents of Nantycaws raised issues which they wished the Clerk to take up with Valero. Valero's response is as follows:
Valero engagement with Nantycaws residents
Can I start by addressing the feeling amongst local residents that, now the pipeline has been repaired, Valero no longer cares about those affected or their concerns? This is absolutely not the case, and Valero remains fully committed to resolving each and every issue as best as we possibly can. Whilst we did not attend the public meeting on the 8th December, I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that this was not because we do not care about resident’s concerns, but because we feel it is important to maintain the engagement we currently have in place with residents, namely one-to-one discussions via Fisher German with individuals, landowners and their agents, and that anything else would add unnecessary complexity.
However, I wish to stress that we will answer any questions raised with us, whether via the Community Council, Carmarthen County Council, the local MP or AM, as well as directly with the residents and their agents – as we have done throughout the incident. Fisher German’s free helpline (0800 756 0804) remains active, so residents can contact them should they have any issues.
Regarding comments from residents that their emails to Valero that have gone unacknowledged or had no reply, we have checked our records thoroughly and believe that, either directly or via Fisher German, we have responded to each and every call, email and letter that we have received. We are concerned if residents’ queries are not getting through to us, for whatever reason, and would welcome the community council assistance in informing the community of the various ways they can get in touch with us. This includes Valero customer care - email@example.com - as well as through their local representatives, such as county councillors, AM, MP and of course Llangunnor Community Council.
Replanting trees along the A48
We understand the concerns of local residents impacted by the removal of the trees along the A48 and apologise once again for the distress this has caused them. We have been in close consultation with the South Wales Trunk Road Agency (SWTRA), who own the land, and NRW on replacing the tree line, and thanks to their agreement we have been able to replant during winter months. This is contrary to the original plan communicated to residents that we would look to install temporary acoustic screening.
We are unsure why the NRW representative at the 8th December meeting was unaware of the tree replanting arrangements, as we have been working in consultation with SWTRA and NRW and have followed their guidance on this issue throughout. We understand the desire for trees to be replaced ‘like for like’ as you describe, but the tree species and spacing of the trees have been specified to Valero by SWTRA and NRW. The trees chosen are semi-mature to enable them to be manoeuvred and planted on the bank safely. They are between five and six metres tall, and we hope residents agree this height is quite considerable and should screen the affected properties when in leaf in the spring and summer months.
The tree replanting began during the week of 5th December and has now been completed. In addition, and again following guidance from NRW and SWTRA, in the spring we intend to plant shrubbery between the newly planted trees to improve the screening effect further. I would again like to assure council members and local residents that Valero is making strenuous efforts to restore the local environment as quickly and sensitively as possible, and without regard for cost.
We communicated with all 1,200 Nantycaws residents on 23rd November that the tree re-planting was about to begin, and this week we will visit those residents that back onto the affected area to discuss it in further detail and answer any questions they may have.
Environmental effects of the oil spill
We hope that the other issues you mentioned that were raised at the meeting – namely what the extent of the environmental effects from the spill has been, whether there was any environmental effects downstream in Nant Pibwr, when land affected by recent flooding would be able to be re-used, and the impact of noise and air pollution – were addressed in full by NRW and Carmarthenshire County Council’s Environmental Health department, and residents obtained some reassurance from their answers.
We would like to state that throughout the incident Valero and Fisher German arranged for our environmental contractors ERM to test air, ground and water samples around the affected area and this data has been supplied to NRW and the Environmental Health team at Carmarthenshire County Council. Thanks to the swift actions taken by Valero, our response teams and others, particularly NRW and the emergency services, the environmental effects of the oil leak were limited to the areas within our various booming operations.
So far environmental monitoring undertaken by Valero’s environmental consultants, in liaison with NRW, have discovered no evidence of any environmental impact further downstream, even following the flooding caused by heavy rain, nor has there ever been any impact on the River Towy. Valero has long term environmental remediation efforts in place in Nantycaws that will continue to monitor the environment for the foreseeable future.
With regards to questions regarding the potential contamination of agricultural land, Valero’s soil samples from farm land adjacent to the Nantycaws and Nant Pibwr watercourses are being taken this week to determine what, if any, contamination there is. Should the results show contamination, we will work with NRW and take all remedial action deemed necessary. We are fully committed to working with local landowners to ensure the remediation of all affected areas.