Industrial Waste - been passed by local County

(40 Posts)
WelshMoth Fri 30-Nov-12 09:24:26

Sorry - can't think of any other way to word this title, but AIBU to feel very uncomfortable about this?

We live in a town which has an Industrial works - been there for absolute decades. Employs a load of local families, does a lot for the community etc.

I've just read in our Community Magazine, a letter sent in to the Editor, by a member of the public. He has named himself (so not signed as anonymous).

In the letter he asks whether the people of this community are a aware that this Company are planning on emitting a pollutant called 2.3.7.8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCCD) which toxic and is a carcinogenic. Apparently, it's already been passed as fit by our County Council and they are now only awaiting consent from the Environment Agency before starting work.

No one in my family (there are lots of us spread around this town) or immediate group of friends and neighbours are aware of this - NEVER heard it mentioned before. AIBU to have expected at least a Public Notice of this application?

Does anyone know what I could be doing to at least find out more about this? I don't like what I've googled so far I must admit.

Jins Fri 30-Nov-12 09:26:03

PM me with more details if you can. I'm a waste planner smile

Softlysoftly Fri 30-Nov-12 09:29:23

Think Jins pretty much finished this thread in one sentence! grin

YANBU btw

Jins Fri 30-Nov-12 09:47:46

Yes, sorry about that [shame]

I'd be prepared to bet that this substance has been part of the process for years and that a change in disposal method or a permitting issue has raised the profile.

Not good and you are right to worry but the reason why it goes to the EA is for risk assessment and appraisal of the methodology of disposal and potential pollution control.

If you don't want to out your location to me then you could ring the local EA office for more information

WelshMoth Fri 30-Nov-12 10:11:45

Jins, fantastic. THANKS TONS.
I'll PM you immediately.

Softlysoftly - thanks for your post too. Made me grin

FlaminNoraImPregnantPanda Fri 30-Nov-12 11:45:21

Also, if you have any specific questions about the chemical being disposed of, post here rather than google and I'll get my husband to answer for you. He's a professor of industrial waste recycling/processing.

WelshMoth Fri 30-Nov-12 11:48:57

Flaming, THANK YOU! am out and about now but will come back to this later. It's really worrying me.

Jins Fri 30-Nov-12 11:49:08

He sounds like a perfect person to answer that one

It's still in time for consultation (just) and it's a fairly straightforward proposal for a change to RDF fuel with associated energy production. That won't out the location as there are very many of them grin

FlaminNoraImPregnantPanda Fri 30-Nov-12 11:54:31

He doesn't get home from work until 8.00pm, but I know he'll be more than happy to answer any questions once he's had his dinner.

TwoIfBySea Fri 30-Nov-12 11:55:07

We knew nothing about the waste 'recycling' centre that appeared a few miles away. On regular days you can smell the stink from it, like the rotting whatever-it-is.

My worry is that it smells a bit like gas so if there were ever an actual gas leak we'd think it was from there instead. SEPA know, the council know, nothing happens.

Jins Fri 30-Nov-12 12:07:43

Recycling centres can smell worse than landfills if they aren't properly controlled. If action is taken it usually ends up being some sort of deodorising spray which actually smells worse sad

WelshMoth Fri 30-Nov-12 13:23:54

Jins - can this still be challenged then? What kind of time scale are we talking about and what do I need to do?

lovelyladuree Fri 30-Nov-12 13:43:47

It hasn't been passed by the Environment Agency yet. Untwist those knickers.

Jins Fri 30-Nov-12 13:44:01

The Environment Agency consultation is going until the 4th December I think. I PMd the links to you.

They are minded to approve the variation though.

I think you need to take advice from FlaminNora's DH on the actual risks and then draft a response to the EA. Happy to help with that if you want to go ahead but it does look a bit of a foregone conclusion. It's been a low key application so far which means the risk assessment didn't produce any worries. I haven't read the details though - will have a look when I get a chance

WishICouldBeLikeDavidWicks Fri 30-Nov-12 14:28:24

Welshmoth I think I know the thing you're on about! I don't live far from it (and I thought there were no mumsnet readers for at least 50 miles from me...).

'the thing' has had lots of publicity, adverts in the paper, library etc.

WelshMoth Fri 30-Nov-12 16:06:44

What what? blush

I'm on about a town about 5 miles from the city centre of Swansea?

WishICouldBeLikeDavidWicks Fri 30-Nov-12 19:58:11

Beginning with C? It was on the front of the post ages ago, with a positive spin on it as it'll create jobs. Or something. Still can't believe someone near me reads mumsnet. shock

FlaminNoraImPregnantPanda Fri 30-Nov-12 20:00:11

Judging from my husband's reaction when I read out the chemical name, this is not good. He's just gone out to walk the dog and said he'll reply to this thread when he gets back.

WelshMoth Fri 30-Nov-12 20:08:30

Thanks Flaming. I've just picked this thread back up now.

WelshMoth Fri 30-Nov-12 20:10:18

WishICouldBe - yep, that's the place.

That'll teach me for not buying the Evening Post spends too much time on MN instead

<whispers furtively> I may even know you in RL?!

Jins Fri 30-Nov-12 20:19:34

It's not no 1 on your desired list of chemicals for sure but a lot depends on volume and methodology for treatment.

You burn plastics - you get dioxins. Refuse derived fuel does have a huge range of potential pollutants depending on the waste that goes into it. I'm still looking for the detailed reports that would have been submitted but there's nothing showing on the page I found. Will have to go back to google again

WishICouldBeLikeDavidWicks Fri 30-Nov-12 20:28:36

I doubt I know you, I'm not local, I'm from the other side of town!
I only read the Post front page in shops, and at my parents but these type of things generally get ads in local press, sometimes radio, but not everyone buys the paper/tolerates local radio so it's easy to miss them.

I asked my DH about it (he sort of knows this stuff) he said there are laws against chemicals and if they're legal and within limit, they're allowed.

DrSnowman Fri 30-Nov-12 21:33:59

I am FlaminNoraImPregnantPanda's husband.

Sadly I am not an authority on dioxin, I am an expert on other things.

Well I have too little information to be able to make a judgement, this might be a tiny storm in a teacup or it could be a total house of horror depending on a series of different things.

1. If the level of dioxin is very low then I would say "do not worry", with the improvements in anayltical equipment it has been possible in recent years to measure almost anything at the very low levels which are the natural background level.

At low levels the jury is still out on dioxin, it might be a human carcinogen (substance which causes cancer) or it might not. I would err on the side of caution and assume it is carcinogenic. But many things in everyday life are carcinogenic (weakly). A good example is burnt toast or a flame grilled burger, both are likely to contain some small amounts of carcinogens.

You need to find out how much dioxin [2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCCD)] is involved. At high levels like those seen in Italy at Seveso it caused some perfectly horrible effects. It was killing animals and causing some health effects in humans.

Be careful the acute toxicity of dioxin changes greatly from one species of animal to another. I very much doubt if the level of the dioxin would be able to cause acute effects.

2. You need to consider or get someone to consider by what route the dioxin will travel to you. I know nothing about the case you have, for exposure in food you can get the UK limits here http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/faq/dioxinspcbs/

The great problem is that depending on a person's habits and diet their daily dioxin dose could be different.

3. You need to consider what physical form the dioxin waste is in, it is a fine powder, is it very fine particles in the air (smoke), it is a liquid waste or is it a dense solid waste with large particles ?

For a solid waste how easy is it for the dioxin to leach out of the particles, if the dioxin is locked up inside large particles then it might not be able to leach out into places where it can do you harm.

4. I think you need to ask the following questions

A. What form is the dioxin waste in ?

B. How much dioxin is in the waste in terms of mg per kilos (ppm)

C. Which type of dioxin is it, is it the worst one or a milder one ?

D. How much dioxin will be escaping into the environment per day in an uncontrolled way (eg as dust)

E. How much dioxin will be deposited per day per square meter in the nearest residential area to the site ?

F. How large a dioxin dose would a typical home grown leafy vegtable give me if I was to grow my own vegtables on land near the site ?

G. How much dioxin should I expect to inhale per day from dust in the air

Based on the answers to F and G you could work out a dioxin dose per day for an adult or a child who has got past the stage of crawling on the floor eating dirt and sucking at random things

H. Ask if the environmental experts have calculated from the rate at which dioxin arrives on land, and the rate at which is breaks down what the equilibrium level will be. Ask for this in micrograms per kilo of soil for the soil in the top layer.

Based on the answer for question H, you could work out the dose per day for a small child if you know how much dirt the child eats per day.

You need to ask a toxicologist what the health effects of the amounts of dioxin calculated for F,G and H are. Sorry but I am not able to give out medical advice on what will happen if you eat x nanograms of dioxin.

WelshMoth Fri 30-Nov-12 21:34:45

Am I getting worked up about nothing though? I want to do the right thing here but will it all be slapped down with a load of chemical jargon that I don't have a clue about

I'm getting all Erin Brokovitch about something I know nothing about. blush

DrSnowman Fri 30-Nov-12 22:13:40

Well I warn you that you might get some people in authority might try to blind you with science. Do not be afraid, if you get answers to my suggested questions then tell me and my wife. I can look at the answers and then give you a chemist's opinion.

I think that you firstly need to find out what the exposure route will be, is it going to be smoke in the air, dust from ash or something else ?

WelshMoth Fri 30-Nov-12 23:52:18

Dr Snowman. I can't thank you enough for your input. My last post crossed with yours so huge apologies for sounding a bit glib. I'll contact Environmental Wales on Monday, also the company itself.

Your post is heaped with info - I'll get back to you and Jins with any updates. Huge thanks again smile

Jins Sat 01-Dec-12 09:52:53

I can't find the planning application documents online but the draft variation notice is here
www.environment-agency.gov.uk/static/documents/Research/Draft_Variation_Notice%283%29.pdf

It's a closed vessel pyrolysis plant with a system of scrubbers to remove pollutants from exhaust gases. It does seem that the predictions are well within safety guidelines and the system itself has all the safeguards you'd expect for this type of development.

That doesn't mean that a worst case scenario can't happen of course and the information that DrSnowman suggests you obtain will form part of the submitted details for consideration. There will be a risk assessment identifying every potential pollutant and how risk will be managed.

I deal with this sort of development fairly regularly and the improvement in the systems to scrub exhaust gases have improved dramatically in recent years with automated shutdowns working well and constant monitoring of emissions by the plant and the EA taking place. Accidental emissions are my main concern and you need to know what level of dioxin would be emitted if the plant wasn't functioning properly, how soon an automatic shut down would occur and what is the procedure for manual shutdown if system failure occurs.

Also don't focus on just this one pollutant. Combustion of plastics results in a wide range of pollutants and RDF contains organic material as well to get the burn temperature right. See if you can get a list of the expected exhaust gas components

DrSnowman Sat 01-Dec-12 11:22:27

Thanks Jins,

The draft document was rather interesting reading, from the general discussion of the whole process it sounds like a Mond plant. I thought that the big Mond plant in Wales was south of the M4 near the coast.

You are right that dioxin is not the only substance to keep an eye on, the report did mention SO2, NOX and metals. I suspect that of those three that the metals are the one which the locals should pay the most attention to.

Jins Sat 01-Dec-12 11:38:12

This is the Mond I believe.

It's fairly well tested technology and the report says all you'd expect it to say. I'd like to see the raw data and the RA but I can't find anything online. I suppose in pollution potential it's not a million miles from coal fired systems, especially with the low grade coal that's available nowadays.

I'd like to see evidence relating to background pollution levels as the potential for uncontrolled emissions, particularly to water, will have been present for many years. The refinery has been going since 1902 and pollution control wasn't top of the list back then. Obviously if there's high levels of background pollution then risks are higher with the new process but it's hard to tell from the draft what is actually going on

GrimAndHumourlessAndEven Sat 01-Dec-12 11:46:21

I have no interest in the case but BLIMEY at the level of knowledge evidenced by MNers (and DrSnowman too, you are v kind to take time and trouble to advise)

MN rocks, it really does

DrSnowman Sat 01-Dec-12 15:51:08

I would second that, I would so like to get a soil sample in the following way from the site if it is soft soil. Get a length of PVC pipe, sharpen one end and then bang it in with a hammer.

Next wiggle it and pull out a core sample, then I would love to cut it into 2 cm slices and then get the metal content on each slice, it would be interesting to get a graph of metal content vs depth.

I think that a soil sample like that could keep me busy for weeks in the lab.

WelshMoth Sun 02-Dec-12 18:16:48

DrSnowman, are you serious? One of my walks takes me right to through Mond 'land' - they've donated part of it to one of the National Cycle tracks. I could get a sample...

DrSnowman Sun 02-Dec-12 19:46:38

I think it was just wishful thinking, in the ideal world I would be able to investigate anything and everything which took my interest. But sadly there are a few problems.

1. Any results I obtain for the core sample would be worthless in court as I do not hold the cerificates for anaylsis of samples.
2. I am not sure if my employer would be happy about me devoting time and chemicals to the examination of samples.
3. I would have to give out my real world identity, the thing is as long as I stay as DrSnowman I can tell people about things (like what questions to ask) with zero fear of anyone making any retaliation against me.

The idea of the core sample which goes deep into the ground is to try to find out the history of the site. For the protection of the public the top layer is the most important layer unless you are getting drinking water from the site or eating anything grown on the site.

If you are interested in the metal contamination on the site then the first thing to do might be to file a freedom of information request with the local authority. Be careful the FOI request is very much like dealing with an evil genie, you have to word it very carefully or else you will get no real answer. I would ask the local authority if they have any records for metal contamination in the soil at that site. You never know they might have already examined the site.

Djembe Sun 02-Dec-12 19:51:55

<also amazed at amazing MNers and their DHes>

WelshMoth Sun 02-Dec-12 21:11:36

DrSnowman, I'm humbled by yours and Jins advice on this.

I'm confused though. Tonight, I spoke to a local Councillor, who first told me that even though the company had followed the correct route for making this public (and that there hadn't been much public opposition for it which is incredibly disappointing), the company had actually decided to shelve the idea in favour of trying to recoup it's funds through land-sale, property sale etc.

He phoned me back 10 mins ago though, having spoken to a colleague on the Council who advised him that not only had the City Council approved it, but Environment Agency Wales have already given the go ahead too.

To say I'm gutted is an understatement. Gutted that the community surrounding this stack hasn't had a chance to oppose in a public forum, or failing that, at least a chance to put it in writing/petition form to present at the council. This, I've learnt, would have been enough for Council to have given it reconsideration. But, it's too late now. Nickle prices are at an all time low, so this company is looking at another income. It's a reality and it's happening and there's nothing I can do about it.

WelshMoth Sun 02-Dec-12 21:22:16

I've still filed a FOI though.

WelshMoth Sun 02-Dec-12 21:34:46

<on a rant>

No one has said a word in protest about this, yet the public outcry around here against the Windfarms has been huge.

<frustrated>

Catsize Sun 02-Dec-12 22:52:52

Dr Snowman, you made me laugh. 'I am FlaminNoraImPregnantPanda's husband'. I, Dr Snowman, take you FlaminNoraImPregnantPanda....' Etc.

Must take ages to introduce her to people.

A light-hearted bit in a serious issue. Good luck!

FlaminNoraImPregnantPanda Sun 02-Dec-12 23:00:37

grin

Jins Mon 03-Dec-12 10:06:50

It appears to have been a delegated decision which does surprise me as I'd have thought this would have been an obvious one for a Committee decision. If it has been publicised correctly, and this is the responsibility of the company and the council to some extent, then there has been the opportunity for the public to get involved. I can't explain why there hasn't been more widespread public objection.

The EA haven't already given it the go ahead - it's still out to consultation although not for long. They are minded to approve the variation but haven't yet done so. Valid representations will have to be considered. You can still raise an objection although I'm not sure whether it will make a difference based on the evidence I've read so far.

Please try not to worry. The fact that it's gone through so smoothly does seem to indicate that there aren't any major concerns about public health issues.

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