"I was minutes away from calling the hospital because I feared for my life," says asthmatic as Bedford incinerator runs tests

Residents' worry over emissions, saying they couldn't breathe - but contractors apologise, saying it was temporary measure and not harmful

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 5:14 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 5:16 pm

Residents living close to the Covanta incinerator near Bedford have complained of suffering breathing problems from the incinerator in Stewartby during tests.

Around a dozen neighbours said a worrying emission last Thursday (April 15) caused an unpleasant smell - but contractors say it was part of a temporary test at the site.

One man took to the Bedfordshire Against Covanta Incinerator forum and said: "This is no exaggeration I couldn’t breathe. I was minutes away from calling the hospital because I feared for my life as my body was losing the ability of the reflex that is necessary to draw in air.

One resident took this picture at the incinerator last Thursday (April 15)
One resident took this picture at the incinerator last Thursday (April 15)

"I had suffered the worst asthma attack of my life. I am a mild asthma sufferer who only takes an inhaler when I have been running or things like dust trigger problems too.

"I’m generally fit and healthy, I don’t need to use it much. However on the night of 15/4/21 I felt mortality. I had not linked my health problems with Covanta until last night.

"I thought I had a 'problem', but I now realise my severe asthma attack was caused from the pollution of the incinerator."

While another said: "My partner's asthma and sinuses have been effected since this incident we live in Stewartby and could smell it in the air."

An aerial shot of the Rookery South Energy Recovery Facility

Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) is a contractor for the Rookery Southsite.

It's site manager, Chris Barbour, said: "With external construction works largely completed, the principal contractor, HZI, has begun commissioning activities at the facility. In advance of this, the site teams began updating near neighbours and local communities about the commissioning processes in January, and we’ll continue to keep people informed of progress.

“Hot commissioning can create initial short-term odours for approximately one day when each of the three boiler lines are firstly heated up as part of the process to clean them. This is much like the first use of a new domestic heater or boiler.

“The first line was started up on April 1, the second on April 15 and the third will take place soon. It’s important to highlight that these odours will not be a feature of normal plant operations. They are short-term and are not harmful to people or the environment.

"As part of our commissioning responsibilities, we have proactively made the local planning authority and the Environment Agency aware of these activities.

"On behalf of the Rookery South project team, can I apologise to anyone affected by these temporary odours."

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “The Environment Agency is carrying out regular inspections at the site to ensure the operators are complying with their permit. These inspections and other compliance activities will continue once the plant is operational.

“If a member of the public is concerned about a suspected environmental incident they should phone our free 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.”