Waterbeach campaigners opposing incinerator plan question Amey’s environmental record

PUBLISHED: 06:25 13 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:20 13 July 2018

Waterbeach incinerator 001

Waterbeach incinerator 001

Campaigners are calling out the environmental record of company seeking to build ‘energy from waste’ facility next to a South Cambridgeshire village.

Amey is proposing to build a £200million energy from waste facility near Waterbeach. It would divert waste headed to landfill into an incinerator to create energy.

Campaigners from nearby villages have revealed the company’s past failings to keep to the requirements of environmental permits issued by the Environment Agency through a freedom of information request.

They say Amey’s previous failures are cause for concern.

Jude Sutton, one of the campaigners for group Cambridge Without Incineration (CBWIN) said: “Time and again, we are told that incineration can be operated within safe limits, but we have grave reservations about Amey’s ability to manage such a facility well.

“Their record locally is not a good one and now we have evidence that shows an alarming number of permit breaches at their other plants.

“We are not just talking about bad smells and flies, though these are bad enough. Particulate matter from incineration can include arsenic, mercury, cadmium and dioxins. How can a company with such a terrible reputation across a number of business sectors and incinerator permit compliance failures be trusted?

“Many people are very worried that the county council may give them the go-ahead to run a hugely controversial solution to waste that has been shown to stagnate recycling rates. People are worried that the county council will become locked into contracts by turning to waste incineration as a desperate fix to reduce high landfill taxes, adding further to the enormous long-term debt that taxpayer money is turned into by such PFI waste contract schemes.”

The FOI revealed Amey’s Allerton waste recovery park, which has been operational for less than a year, has breached its environmental permit 11 times. The FOI says “the majority have been for carbon monoxide breaches and loss of the Continuous Emissions Monitoring (CEM) system”.

There have also been 22 unsubstantiated public complaints, the majority about odours.

Amey said a “small number of minor exceeddances” is commonplace in the early months of operations. A software problem caused the issue with the emissions monitoring system and the “low-level” CO exceedances were caused by “very large metal objects” creating blockages at the end combustion process. Steps have been taken to reduce the risk of re-occurrence a spokesperson said.

Amey’s Milton Keynes waste recovery site, considered operational since January, has breached its environmental permit three times, “two related to a spillage incident and one was in relation to the site’s complaint response actions”.

Amey said its management systems have been updated as a result.

A spokesperson said: “The waste industry is highly regulated and we take our compliance obligations with our Environmental Permits very seriously.

“We work closely with the Environment Agency (EA) to ensure all our sites adhere to the necessary requirements. Our environmental permit, regulated by the Environment Agency requires Amey (like all operators) to notify them of certain operational events, as laid out in the permit. We did this and have addressed all the issues identified to their satisfaction. Therefore, the Environment Agency continues to consider us as a competent operator.

“We are committed to minimising the impact of our activities on local people and the environment.”

CBWIN says “thousands” of residents have joined their campaign, which also expresses concerns at the height of the incinerator chimney.

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