Air Quality & Health

The proposed facility would be designed and operated under strict controls placed upon it by European directives and national government, in particular the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Energy from Waste plants are today operating safely and efficiently across the UK and the rest of the world.

The air quality and health concerns relating to EfW that are sometimes raised have been tried and tested by genuine experts in both planning and health arenas time and time again.

In terms of policy and internationally accepted, properly funded and reviewed research, the following documents are notable, and should provide reassurance:

Review of Environmental and Health Effects of Waste Management
May 2004 (see Library for more information)

 “…the weight of evidence from the studies so far is that present-day practice for managing municipal solid waste has at most a minor effect on human health and the environment.”

The review “did not find a link between the current generation of municipal solid waste incinerators and health effects”. It stated that “the current generation of waste incinerators result in much lower levels of exposure to pollutants and no evidence for a link between the current generation of incinerators and the incidence of cancer, respiratory diseases and birth defects was found”.

A November 2005 study of Municipal Solid Waste Incineration by the UK Health Protection Agency

This study concluded that “...provided they (incinerators) comply with modern regulatory requirements, such as the Waste Incineration Directive, they should contribute little to the concentrations of monitored pollutants in ambient air. Epidemiological studies, and the risk estimates based on estimated exposures, indicate that the emissions from such incinerators have little effect on health”.

Flue gas cleaning
In all modern EfW facilities, including the proposed facility at Oxwellmains, combustion gases are thoroughly cleaned before they are released to atmosphere, using a special system designed for the treatment of acid gases.

Hydrated lime and activated carbon neutralise acid components and absorb heavy metals, dioxins, furans and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

These reactions begin inside the ducting, and continue on the bags of the fabric filter. The remaining dust and the reaction products are collected on the bags in the bag filter and collected for disposal.  Clean flue gases then exit the bag filter and are discharged through the stack.

The flue gas treatment system has been designed to comply with the defined standards of the EC Directive on Waste Incineration (2000/75/EC).  Compliance will be enforced by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), through the PPC Permit.

Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM 2.5)
The advanced filter techniques to be employed at the facility will efficiently remove particles, including some of the smallest PM 2.5, from the flue gases using baghouse filters.

Local residents have raised concerns about the issue of PM 2.5 and links to cancer and respiratory illnesses; it is therefore worthwhile exploring this issue in detail.

PM 2.5 (or Particulate Matter 2.5), refers to tiny particles or droplets in the air that are two and a half microns or less in width. The widths of the larger particles in the PM 2.5 size range would be about thirty times smaller than that of a human hair.

These particles are not unique to EfW processes. All combustion processes, including car engines, industrial processes, open fires and barbeques give rise to these.

The solution
The efficient filters to be employed at the proposed facility will stop all such particles from entering the atmosphere.  Instead the PM 2.5 will be safely collected and disposed of.

To provide further reassurance, it has been calculated that PM 2.5 emissions from the proposed plant would be less than one per cent of those permitted under proposed strict local air quality standards, which are currently being adopted and will come into force in 2020.

The overwhelming weight of scientific opinion is that there are no long or short term health effects for local residents or the wider community as a result of PM 2.5 from modern state of the art EfW facilities, such as Viridor is proposing.

More information and scientific studies are documented in the Library on this website.

Control of odour
Because of the nature of the EfW process, the only possibility of odorous emissions would be from the waste reception hall.

All such emissions will be avoided by maintaining negative air pressure within the building so that any dust or odours are drawn into the building along with the air necessary for combustion.

Dust or odour carrying gases will be destroyed in the EfW process, virtually eliminating the possibility of odour outside the facility.

This waste reception area, and indeed, the entire site, will also be subject to high standards of ‘housekeeping’ and standard pest control measures.

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