Further to the letter sent to Nadine Dorries MP requesting support to oppose the installation of the Covanta Incinerator by the Marston Park Residents Association we have received this response which was issued to the Environment Agency. The content is by far the most comprehensive of that which I’ve seen personally and I hope that it will make it significantly harder for Covanta to obtain a permit if not block the entire process.
Response by Nadine Dorries, Member of Parliament for Mid-Bedfordshire, in support of 18 Town and Parish Councils in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, to the SECOND CONSULTATION by the Environment Agency.
Namely Ampthill, Aspley Guise, Brogborough, Cranfield, Flitwick, Houghton Conquest, Hulcote and Salford, Husborne Crawley, Kempston, Lidlington, Marston Moretaine, Millbrook, Ridgmont, Stewartby, Wilstead, Woburn, Woburn Sands, Wootton, to the application by Covanta Energy Limited (“Covanta”) to the Environment Agency (“EA”) for an Environmental Permit (“EP”) to build and operate a proposed Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) at Rookery Pit in Stewartby, Bedfordshire, the (“Project”)
For the reasons set out in detail below we still believe that Covanta have failed to provide satisfactory evidence that the ERF, were an EP to be granted by the EA, would be operated safely, in compliance with applicable environmental regulations and not pose a significant risk to the health and well being of local residents and the wider population and therefore we continue to OBJECT to an Environmental Permit being granted to Covanta to operate at Rookery South. Should the EA however finally decide to grant a permit, we do welcome the preconditions, improvement conditions and operating conditions attached to the draft permit, and request that these are strengthened further.
25 Town and Parish Council joined together to oppose Covanta’s original application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (“IPC”) for a Development Consent Order (“DCO”) to build and operate the ERF. We were commended by the Inspectors at the time for joining together as a third party at the hearings, and in written representations to the many stages of the IPC process. We also petitioned parliament as a group against the granting of the DCO.
We have joined together again to respond to the EP application. The group of 18 includes all of the parishes in the immediate vicinity of the ERF plant, plus other parishes that also remember the far reaching effects of the Stewartby brick works emissions.
The fact that so many parishes have joined together and stuck together all the way through the long process is evidence of the deep concern felt by these parishes about the siting of an ERF plant in the Marston Vale. Please take our comments seriously. Please listen to us. We have the benefit of many years of local knowledge and experience resulting from the consequences of landfilling and brick making in the Marston Vale.
In addition to this joint response, some of the parishes will also be making further comments of their own.
Our experience of living close to large landfill sites which were operational for about 25 years, including the largest landfill site in Europe, which operated an early morning tipping permission from 4.30am, and imported large quantities of waste from outside the Bedfordshire area has given us a clear idea of what we can expect in terms of adverse impacts as a result of importing large quantities of waste by road, and the site noise disturbance caused by extended operating hours.
Similarly, our experience of living near the brickworks, and the poor smoke dispersal caused by temperature inversions have raised legitimate concerns about the effect temperature inversions would have on the safe dispersal of emissions from the Project both in the Marston Vale and the surrounding areas including the Greensand Ridge which in places is higher that the chimney of the proposed ERF.
Furthermore, 2016 saw a number of days of heavier than usual rainfall in Bedfordshire leading to flooding in a number of towns and villages, again highlighting to many residents the need to ensure that the infrastructure to deal with these sorts of events will not fail leading to contamination from the ERF and the waste it will produce of important water features and ultimately their drinking water supply.
None of these things have changed.
We continue to OBJECT for the following reasons:
- Poor and ineffective consultation by the Environment Agency
In the Draft Permit (2.2) The EA for the reasons it outlines considers that it has carried out appropriate consultation. However we strongly disagree. We consider that the EA has only carried out the bare minimum of consultation compared with current standards used elsewhere by for example, Local Authorities. This matters for the following reasons:
- Much time has elapsed since the DCO was originally granted in 2011.
- Since then circumstances have changed in the environmental regulatory world.
- Circumstances have changed considerably in the Marston Vale and surrounding area, with massive house building that has brought many new residents to the area that have been completely unaware of the Covanta application and DCO process.
- The DCO and EA permitting process is little understood by the public with much confusion.
- There is huge public interest in this application.
- There is huge public mistrust of Covanta as a competent operator.
For all of these reasons the level of consultation carried out by the EA has not been adequate. Furthermore, the EA’s only answer to public pressure to improve the consultation process has been to extend the various consultation periods.
- Requests for a public information event in the first round were ignored.
- Requests for the 18 T&PC to meet members of the permitting team were refused. (Even though this was agreed to and carried out in the first EA permit application that was not completed in 2011/12).
- The second round of consultation wasn’t advertised. There has been no public advertisement on the EA process since March 2017.
- Virtually no notice was given for the drop in session at the Forest Centre in September, which wasn’t advertised.
- It is virtually impossible on line to work out which are new documents or when they were submitted or what they replace.
The drop in session held at the Forest Centre in September should have been an ideal opportunity to allow members of the public to have their questions about the detailed working of the plant and permit answered. However:
- Our questions could not be answered. The event was manned by EA staff who were not familiar with the application. Therefore the answer to many questions was ‘go and read it on line you will find the answers there’. This was useless and completely defeated the point of a consultation event.
- Our views were not heard. There was only 1 member of the permitting team who was actually working on the Covanta application present. This was also just dreadful. The EA should be as just as concerned with hearing and collecting evidence and views from local residents first hand and we are in hearing the EA’s point of view.
- The display boards which we believe, had been provided by Covanta were generic, sparse and uninformative.
- Some of the maps being used were out of date.
- An astonishing 383 number of people attended. Astonishingly high, given the short notice and lack of publicity. This should clearly indicate the very high level of concern.
We don’t believe any member if the EA staff left the event that day in any doubt as to the depth of concern in the Project and lack of trust of Covanta as an operator.
All of this evidence should be sufficiently convincing that the EA has not adequately discharged its first duty of adequate consultation on the application.
The Public needs to have confidence that if the EA does grant a permit it will ‘ensure that the operation of the installation complies with all relevant legal requirements and that a high level of protection will be delivered for the environment and for human health’. (Para 3 page 9 draft permit)
We say the consultation process has not provided that confidence.
How is the EA going to ensure that adequate consultation is carried out?
Have any members of the permitting team working on the Covanta application actually made site visits? If so, who and when and where did they visit?
- THE EA is basing its decision on outdated environmental impact assessments.
The DCO was originally granted in 2011, based on environmental studies completed before that date. Since then the environmental conditions in the Vale has changed enormously. Thinking back to 2010 and earlier when the environmental assessments were carried out, Stewartby landfill was still operational. Stewartby brickworks and Brogborough landfill had only recently ceased operations. Kimberley College had not opened. Significant new housing estates had not been built at Marston, Stewartby and Wootton. The East West Rail project was not progressing. (Affecting Stewartby crossing). In other words the base line environment was quite different. The regeneration and development of the Vale has been and is continuing to be very rapid. The Landscape Character Assessment was updated recently to reflect these rapidly changing conditions. Much housing has been built and further possible strategic level housing growth in the Vale has recently been consulted on by Central Bedfordshire Council. (up to 5,000 additional houses). The 18 T&PC requests that the EA should not consider issuing a permit until the relevant Environmental Impact Assessments are updated and resubmitted, given the significant lapse in time and significant changes in environmental conditions in the Vale. These are a unique set of circumstances that the EA should take into account.
How does the EA take the changes that have taken place in the Marston Vale in the last 7 or 8 years into account?
Is the EA going to insist that new assessments are carried out? If not, why not?
- Mistrust of Covanta as a competent operator
There has been mistrust of Covanta as a competent operator since the very beginning of the DCO process based on their history in the US. The EA say it has carried out checks and that it is satisfied. However, the recent accident at the Covanta run plant at Poolbeg, Dublin in June 2017 raises further concerns.
How is the EA taking this most recent industrial accident at a Covanta run plant within the EU using similar technology as proposed at Rookery South into account in its decision making process?
Can the EA provide adequate evidence that Covanta is a competent operator?
- Treatment of Bottom Ash
The 18 T&PCs welcome the condition that requires Covanta to house the IBAA in a covered building, and that IBA storage and processing is also required to be housed in a fully covered building. (Page 109) and 6.5.3.
- Acceptance of Waste
Waste will only be accepted if having been separately collected for recycling it is subsequently unsuitable for recycling. (Condition 2.3.4c page 19 draft permit)
How will this be enforced?
What is to stop materials that could be recycled from being incinerated? Not all separated waste is fully residual.
Our concerns raised in our first submission have not been adequately addressed in the draft permit. The Project will remove incentives for LA customers to transition through the waste hierarchy if potentially recyclable waste can be disposed of without penalty.
The DCO stipulates that the ERF should only be used for the incineration of residual waste in accordance with the Residual Waste Acceptance Scheme. We note from the waste categories planned to be burnt at the facility that they include a number of types of waste which with more careful pre-screening by the creators of the waste could be recycled or reused.
By providing a means of handling large quantities of residual municipal waste without the added cost of the landfill tax the financial incentive that LA’s currently have to improve recycling rates will be removed meaning that waste will not be being disposed of in accordance with the principles of the waste hierarchy set out in the waste directive.
- Temperature Inversions
Our concerns regarding the effect of temperature inversions on the safe dispersal of emissions have not been adequately addressed. Covanta has always been very dismissive of the temperature inversion phenomenon. Page 103 of the draft decision states that the dispersion model used by Covanta does not predict complex conditions such as inversion, complex terrain stagnation or fumigation. The summary seems to imply that other case studies (presumably from elsewhere) suggest these meteorological conditions are likely to lead to long and short term Process Contributions, and that the variability is within any modelling uncertainties. Given the history of the Vale with our experience of brick making pollution when the effect of inversions on the dispersal of emissions could be clearly seen and smelt it is entirely unsatisfactory to rest on ‘other studies’ to determine that inversions will not affect the safe dispersal of emissions.
For information, Appendix A contains the evidence in full that we gave in the first round of permit consultation. There is good meteorological data available from Cardington, including radiosonde data. It is located in the Marston Vale. We do not understand why meteorological data from other stations that do not replicate the conditions in the Vale is persistently used by Covanta, and the EA.
Will you require Covanta to provide dispersion modelling that uses Meteorological data from the Marston Vale to model complex conditions such as inversion complex terrain stagnation and fumigation?
Until this modelling is carried out and audited we do not believe a permit can be safely issued.
- Water discharge into Stewartby Lake
This remains an area of great concern. We remain somewhat unclear as to the process for safe water management. Our original detailed comments on waste water treatment are included in Appendix A.
How frequently will the water in the attenuation pond and LLRS pond be check for contamination? If contamination is found, what will be the process to prevent contaminated water reaching Stewartby Lake?
What has happened to earlier proposals to use tankers to remove water during high rainfall events? Is this still proposed? This seemed an unsatisfactory method. If it is no longer being considered, how will excess water be dealt with during extreme rainfall events?
Is water no longer proposed to be pumped into Rookery North?
The proposed method of water management has changed frequently, even between documents, which has been very confusing, and it would be helpful to have the definitive process laid out clearly.
For the reasons outlined above, the 18 T&PC still consider there are too many variables and areas of concern that have not been satisfactorily addressed in the draft permit, and therefore request that a permit is not issued for Rookery South ERF.
Member of Parliament for Mid-Bedfordshire
House of Commons │London │SW1A OAA
0207 219 5928