New fears around planned waste incinerator near Stewartby

Numerous protests have been held against plans for waste incinerator plant
Numerous protests have been held against plans for waste incinerator plant

A massive energy-from-waste incinerator, like the controversial one Covanta wants to build near Stewartby, has been riddled with problems since opening last summer, it’s claimed.

The news comes after the Environment Agency revealed it was “minded” to grant a permit for the Rookley South Pit plant.

The Times & Citizen can reveal 11 workers needed hospital treatment following an “uncontrolled release of lime” within a week of the £450million Irish facility going operational.

Three more incidents at the Poolbeg site near Dublin were deemed serious enough to be reported to the country’s Environmental Protection Agency.

Then pest controllers had to be called in after nearby residents complained about “swarms of flies”.

Local resident Marie Kelly told the Irish Journal after the first incident: “They (Covanta) should be ashamed of themselves. I’m disgusted by it all now. We don’t know what’s coming into the air.

“You had every Tom, Dick and Harry saying it was going to be safe. Now there’s 11 people in the hospital. It’s not too safe-looking now.”

More than 2,000 people objected to American waste management firm Covanta’s plans to build a similar multi-million-pound plant in Bedfordshire.

Bigger than the Cardington airsheds and with a chimney taller than Big Ben, it will burn 480,000 metric tonnes of municipal, commercial and industrial waste a year to produce 50MW of low carbon energy, enough to power 65,000 homes.

The Environment Agency has promised a second consultation period before any final decision is made and held a “public drop-in session” at Marston Vale Centre last Wednesday (Sept 20) so residents could make their views known.

But angry campaigners, who believe the incinerator will damage the environment and pose serious health risks, claim the interests of a giant multi-national firm are being put before those of residents.

And they have accused the Agency of deliberately keeping last Wednesday’s meeting low key so that few people would turn up.

Nicola Ryan-Raine, of Bedfordshire Against Covanta Incinerator (BACI), said: “We believe the EA will view a low attendance as a lack of continuing public interest in the Covanta Incinerator permit rather than their own desultory approach to the advertising of the event.

“We observed and reported a catalogue of errors during the process of the first consultation including out-of-date guidance documents, withdrawn/archived procedures and actual consultation document errors. Now it appears the worrying trend of inefficiency is set to continue.

“It seems that the commercial interests of a large American multi-national company outweigh the health and environmental concerns of local residents.”

Covanta, which wants to develop the site with British firm Veolia UK, insist it will create new jobs and bring a range of “local community, employment, infrastructure and environmental benefits”.

But objectors claim noxious fumes could trigger a whole set of health problems.

And they argue that 600 trucks rumbling through the country lanes every day will damage the environment and wildlife.

There was similar opposition in Ireland to Poolbeg, a joint development between Covanta and the Dublin local authorities, which opened in June and is forecast to make £53million profit a year.

By the end of the month the Irish Times reported: “Three events serious enough to be reported to the Environmental Protection Agency were recorded during its first week of testing.”

And on July 8, the Irish Sun, said: “The owners of Dublin’s Poolbeg incinerator are being prosecuted over an incident which saw 11 staff taken to hospital. The lime leak from the filtering process was one of a number of breaches in the first week of operation last month.”

Local councillor Cian O’Callaghan told the Irish Daily Mail: “Covanta have accumulated a record of fines for breaches of environmental protections and standards in North America.

“This serious discharge within days of operations commencing raises questions about the appointment of Covanta.”