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Incinerator health risk study welcomed by King's Lynn campaigners

PUBLISHED: 10:10 02 May 2011 | UPDATED: 10:21 02 May 2011

Anti-incinerator poster in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt.

Anti-incinerator poster in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt.

Archant © 2011

The "for" and "against camps both support Government study into potential health risks of burning waste.

Government plans for a study into whether waste incinerators impact upon cancer and infant mortality rates have been welcomed by both backers of, and campaigners against, plans for such a plant in Norfolk.

It has been confirmed that a team from London’s Imperial College will carry out research for the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in order to determine once and for all whether particles released by such plants can damage health.

The news comes as controversial plans to build an incinerator on the Saddlebow industrial estate, near King’s Lynn have caused Norfolk County Council to be at loggerheads with West Norfolk Borough Council, which carried out a poll among residents and returned a 93pc vote against the development.

The county council is soon to sign a contract with Cory Wheelabrator to provide the facility, but West Norfolk council is threatening legal action in a bid to prevent it from going ahead – mainly due to health fears.

Last night, both those for and against the proposals welcomed the study.

Mike Knights, spokesman for the anti campaign said he felt such a move was unlikely to delay the on-going plans for Norfolk, the outcome of which, he believes is more than likely to be decided by a court.

He said news of a proper study was well overdue, adding: “There are good reasons to be concerned as the HPA is not recognising the evidence and they have not done any studies. The evidence the HPA has been using is based on opinion of estimates provided by a company working for the incinerator industry.

“We have had no faith in the HPA guidelines but I would expect this to be a proper study with Imperial College.”

Mr Knights claimed that there was an overwhelming amount of evidence suggesting those living close to incinerators suffered as a result.

He added: “We have been telling the county council this – there has been no proper study.”

But county leader Derrick Murphy said he too welcomed the fact a study would be carried out.

“I think it’s only right and fitting that the most up to date data is used,” he said.

“We have always worked hand-in-glove with the Government,” he added.

Mr Murphy said he had “no interest whatsover” in building a plant that would be unsafe, given that he lives about 4.5 miles from the site itself.

“It is up to the Government to assuage these concerns and would applaud research into the area. The technology has changed and an incinerator of 1980 is very different from an incinerator of today, although they are both called the same,” he said.

Mr Murphy would not be drawn on the potential impact on the Lynn incinerator of a study which concluded there are associated health issues.

The county council has appointed Cory Wheelabrator as preferred contractor to build the plant which would deal with 170,000 tonnes of domestic waste.

A statement from the HPA said: “Well run and regulated modern municipal waste incinerators are not a significant risk to public health.

“However, we recognise that there are real public concerns about this issue and will take every possible step to reassure people that the position is as we have outlined. HPA also continually seeks to review and extend the evidence base on which it bases its advice.

“For these reasons we are in discussions with researchers at Imperial College London about a potential study into birth outcomes around municipal waste incinerators and a detailed proposal for what will be a complex study is being drawn up.”

The issue of long-term damage to health is centred around particles being released into the air, including PM2.5, which are released as part of the incineration process.

Mr Knights said that a Freedom of Information request to the Environment Agency had revealed that the most modern and efficient filters still left up to 95pc of PM2.5 in the air.

“For the Government to say that modern plants remove 99.9 pc of PM10 is meaningless - PM10 is much bigger. It’s like smashing a sheet of asbestos over a sieve - 99 pc of it would be caught, but it’s the finer, much smaller particles that are most damaging to peoples’ health,” he claimed.

“There is certainly evidence to suggest that there is a great risk.”

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