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We are a company on Mersea Island growing and selling Colchester Native and local Rock oysters into London on a daily basis. Our oysters are sold throughout Europe and Asia.
We market the Native oysters under the Colchester name as this is a big selling point - 200 years ago Colchester Natives were sold in restaurants in Belgium as they are today.
From the creeks at Mersea Island, 3 oyster purification plants sell approx. 500 tons of Rock and 50 tons of Native oysters per year. The industry on Mersea currently employs about 100 people involved in growing, gathering or catching and processing the oysters, and 3 restaurants depend heavily on the Mersea oyster.
Our biggest concern regarding 350 proposed houses being built on Mersea Island is the extra pressure that will be placed on the sewage system, and the consequent deterioration of the water quality within the Blackwater Estuary and adjacent creeks.
We are in contact with Anglian Water on a monthly basis and we have been invited on occasion to visit the water treatment works in Colchester at the Hythe Quay, which we have accepted, and were told that Mersea's sewage treatment works is at full capacity and couldn't handle any more sewage. This would mean that during heavy rain in the winter months, with an increased amount of sewage due to extra housing, the sewage would not be able to be processed and would have to be discharged raw straight into the Blackwater Estuary.
This would cause Norovirus levels to rise in the seawater, therefore contaminating the oysters, because as filter feeders they would ingest the Norovirus bug. This gives our customers no confidence in our oysters because of the threat of illness, and our market would collapse very quickly.
We cannot stress enough how important the water quality in the Blackwater Estuary is to our industry and we feel that it is threatened by these proposed developments on Mersea.
The Blackwater Estuary is currently part of a Marine Conservation Zone which is part of a National and European scheme to save the Native oyster from extinction within Britain. We are one of the only areas that has a wild stock of Native oysters now breeding in the Blackwater Estuary and this is largely due to the good quality fo the water we have which is critical to the spawning and growing of the larvae stage of the Native oyster.
We sell many Colchester Native Oysters all over the world and we are therefore proud to use the Colchester name and put Colchester on the map with a very well known product, which has been grown in our waters since Roman times.
If the building of these houses must go ahead can you assure us that the water treatment works is upgraded to cope - for instance, much larger ponds to hold sewage during rainstorms and also the increase in ultra-violet lights to kill bacteria during the process of discharge?
We hope that you will take our concerns into consideration and the problems that will be caused to our industry as a consequence of your decision to build these houses.
Michael and Sara Dawson, West Mersea Oysters