Friday, June 14, 2024

Local MP tries to block incinerator expansion plans

Local Northwich MP, Mike Amesbury, has written to Jacob Rees-Mogg who is Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, urging him to block the proposed expansion plans for the controversial Northwich waste incinerator. This follows a similar letter to his predecessor in the role, Kwasi Kwarteng.

The plans are based on a planning application by Lostock Sustainable Energy Plant Ltd (LSEP) who wants to increase the amount of waste the plant can treat from 600,000 tonnes a year up to 728,000 tonnes a year. That’s almost 2,000 tonnes of waste a day being burned in this eyesore on the edge of our town.

To do this, they have also applied to extend the hours in which they can operate their road transport. Currently, they are allowed to import waste via lorry from 7 am to 7 pm but under new proposals, the end time could be extended to 11 pm. This would mean 434 lorry movements a day, every day, as they ferry waste to the plant.

In his letter to the Business Secretary, Mike Amesbury said:

“The proposed expansion will result in a 65per cent increase in HGV journeys around the site.

“There could be as many as 1,200 lorries up and down Griffiths Road every day with this project and three other waste processing plants either built or in the pipeline.
“These additional lorries will create extra noise, pollution, wear and tear, disturbance and safety issues impacting roads and residential areas, both near and far, when the operator should be utilising the available railhead.

“It sends out all the wrong signals as we head towards net zero emission targets by 2050.”

As regular readers will know, we have long-standing objections to not only the scheme itself but also to the proposed lorry movements as we have repeatedly stated that with that level of traffic, accidents are an inevitability. The quality of life for Rudheath residents will be adversely affected and the pollution, not only from the incinerator but the lorries too, will have a detrimental effect on overall health and wellbeing.

In the comments section of the Northwich Guardian, where this story was filed, readers have left a variety of comments, but none more telling than those from long-standing opponent of incinerators, Michael Ryan, who had this to say about health outcomes near incinerators.

Two major studies, part-funded by Public Health England, have wrongly concluded that there is no link between exposure to incinerator emissions and infant mortality. “Fetal growth, stillbirth, infant mortality and other birth outcomes near UK municipal waste incinerators; retrospective population based cohort and case-control study ” (Environment International Volume 122, January 2019, Pages 151-158) The first, above, adjusted ONS data around 22 incinerators for deprivation, ethnicity and socioeconomic status before concluding no link. I’ve checked ONS data for 21 of the 22 incinerators (not for Baldovie incinerator near Dundee as I have no long-term record there) and for twenty of the incinerators there was a sudden rise in infant death rates in Councils exposed to emissions after the incinerators started operating. These rises show that it was wrong to adjust the data and that the study must therefore be flawed and seriously misleading. The 21st incinerator was in Porthmellon on St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, where a single infant death occurred in the study period, thereby making its inclusion worthless as far as reliable data is concerned and that incinerator should never been included. “Bayesian spatial modelling for quasi-experimental designs: An interrupted time series study of the opening of Municipal Waste Incinerators in relation to infant mortality and sex ratio” (Environment International Volume 128, July 2019, Pages 109-115) The second study above also concluded no link with this carefully-worded sentence in the abstract’s conclusion: “Based on our approach, we do not find evidence of an association of MWI opening with changes in risks of infant mortality or sex ratio in comparison with control areas.” I used ONS data to see the numbers of infant deaths in the eight councils where the incinerators were sited in the year of start-up plus each of the following three years. There were a total of 46 infant deaths in the year the incinerators started, seventy in the next year and sixty-three and seventy-four in the following two years. Most would call that trend an increase, and yet the authors didn’t.

The most recent incinerator article by Mark Metcalf in Big Issue North in May 2022 is online and mentions Trevor Calver who lost two infant grandchildren in electoral wards in Waltham Forest close to the Edmonton incinerator. The wards were Chingford Green and Valley wards. It was earlier articles by Mark Metcalf about my research starting in 2010 that persuaded the former Health Protection Agency bto promise a study into a possible link between incinerator emissions and infant mortality in April 2011, which was reported in the Sunday Express on 1 May 2011. That article is still online and the caption under my photo has been changed from the one that said I’d seen my mother and son die. I didn’t see my mother die but my wife and I saw our only daughter die at 14 weeks in November 1985. The Shrewsbury hospital incinerator is nearby and used to have Crown Immunity which meant that they couldn’t be pursued on civil or criminal matters. The infant mortality rate in Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council rose after the incinerator started in 1975 and peaked in 1985. A municipal incinerator started operating in Shrewsbury in 2015 and the infant mortality rate in Shropshire Unitary Authority rose afterwards just as the rate in Telford fell after the Ironbridge Power Station closed in November 2015. If you Google Dr William Brend, you’ll see that he proved in 1917 that poverty couldn’t be blamed for high rates of infant mortality and that air pollution must be the dominant causal factor. The entire text of his Health and the State is online thanks to UCLA. Researchers always adjust data because that’s what has always been done. Dr Danny Dorling was co-author of a report about geographical variations in the infant mortality rates in which the rapid fall in rates was noticed in the 1970s which correlates with the switch to clean North Sea Gas. It was the same reduction in exposure to toxic pollution that caused a surge in life-expectancy. The truth about air pollution has been ignored and covered up for too long.

Whilst the build is underway and it looks likely to proceed to completion, surely doubt must now be cast on the decision made in 2012 and its relevance to today’s society. Why are we, a decade on, being lumbered with an outmoded way of treating waste? As Michael’s posts confirm, serious doubt has been repeatedly cast over the safety of these plants, and surely, in the 21st century, we should be able to provide better solutions for dealing with waste other than transporting it from all over the country and burning it in Northwich. Have we learned nothing over the past century?