Sunday, 31 May 2009


Risky Business.....issue 2
“Little local difficulties” in the industry

A UK waste incinerator has operated under a management regime that falsified emissions monitoring data in breach of its environmental permit, a former employee at a site has alleged recently (see UKWIN link,news,Manchester). The operator rejects the claims but the Environment Agency has pledged to investigate.
One of his most serious allegations is that the plant’s continuous emissions monitoring system was regularly turned off during start-up and shutdown [a time in the in all incinerator cycles notorious for high dioxin emissions], and when the plant was operating abnormally. This means no accurate record of emissions would be made at these times and the flue gas treatment system was also not in use. The consequences of this would be that emissions of acid gases and organic pollutants such as dioxins would not be effectively abated - a breach of the site’s environmental permit.
When a French company bought an Italian incinerator recently it certainly didn’t get a bargain. It found that emissions data had been extensively and deliberately falsified, the police were involved and hard discs were seized.

Saturday, 30 May 2009


Nanoparticles…….New Incinerators, New waste streams, New Problems. The changing face of waste, more metals, more electricals and more plastics.

When you put metals into a furnace they are usually lumps, large or small and relatively safe, you can’t breathe a lump of lead in, for example. After you have heated them up, and made them go through chimney reactions they become very tiny particles and become very much more dangerous, mercury and cadmium being particularly serious examples. You will be surprised to hear that there are no laws regulating heavy metal discharge levels in air, apart from lead, so that councils can get away with not monitoring them. The levels of metals emitted by incinerators is very high, and much higher than found in emissions from cars. You may well hear of PM 10’s or even PM2.5’s….these particles are PM0.18’s! Filters designed for bigger particles won’t be able to cope…..even now cyclists masks do not protect them from traffic particulates. There is evidence from Mexico city that these can pass directly into the brain, via the nose, as well as being small enough to get into the blood via the lungs.

Another very real problem is the plastic packaging that everybody has got used to, as well as the plastics in bottles etc. PVC doors and windows are more than 90% organic chlorine, and will become more of the waste stream in future. The chlorine atoms in plastic are related to the formation of dioxins, directly. The more plastic in the burn the more dioxins are produced, to enter the merry-go-round of afterburning, flue gas washing and filter capture (or not!).

Many electrical goods contain PBDEs, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and are finding their way into incinerator waste streams. They are also the flame retardants in furniture, now a legal requirement.

The face of incineration has changed in more ways than one. There are no easy reassurances, and no easy way to check what was on that lorry that just went in the depot. You can guess the number of wrongly declared lorry loads in the world history of incineration, but, by the time they got discovered, it was all too late.

Friday, 29 May 2009


What's in a scale? That which we call a map, by any other scale would illustrate as clearly.....

A little food for thought on how easily DEFRA's air pollution report could be used to obfuscate rather than inform....
Once there were lies, damned lies and statistics. Now we live in the age of the image, in more senses than one, it could be updated to lies, damned lies and cleverly chosen images...Photoshopped images...

Thursday, 28 May 2009


RISKY BUSINESS…the corrupted links between science, political economics, councils and big business… issue 1

Risk assessment has been turned into a sort of “abstract art” of cost benefit analysis and prediction of health and mortality. At its heart is an immoral equation : if you don’t know the names and addresses of the 4,400 people that died in London last year from air pollution, you aren’t guilty of anything. Epidemiology as an excuse for gross negligence. Profit before people.

The air pollution world is in a bit of a fix, at the moment, because the UK is going to be prosecuted for VERY BAD AIR INDEED…..London’s first and foremost. Pretty soon it will be possible for a private citizen to start a prosecution, all by themselves.

Here are some examples of how government has used science to muddy the waters:

Mortality is an important part of working out cost-benefits. In England this is done by COMEAP…it says that a 10 point rise causes a 6% increase in deaths.
That’s a bit odd, because the Americans, using the same figures say it could be as high as 17%.Other, modern, international figures come up with 19% or 20% increase. 6% or 20%....that makes a big difference to the cost benefit sums.
Pollution modelling a lot of it is done by computer now, not from real monitors in the street. DEFRA have chosen a programme (CMAQ, with the made-sorgam particle model) which European research has shown undercounts severe pollution by 50%.So you can pretend you have reduced pollution at a stroke.
Hiding the problem:In its recent guidance on air pollution to councils DEFRA has produced a document ,on page A3-27 of which, is advice on how to hide chimney emissions on computer models.. Grids of 50 metres square show dense concentrations of pollutants in certain areas. 200 metre grids make these disappear. Hide or show?...what do you think they will do?
The big LAEI…..these days the government doesn’t want to measure pollution in the real world…but in its fairyland world of computerised emission inventories, where the numbers are falling. It’s all a bit embarrassing really, because they haven’t shut the real world down yet. King’s college scientists show there has not been any fall in emissions for the last 10 years, what’s more, there may well have been a rise. Heatwave years are very bad, just like we are about to have.

The trouble is the government have a whip hand on the grants that keep scientists in work. Industry often decides what work it will fund or not. The Incinerator Industry has no intention of funding any real research, because it knows what will be found….just the same as in the rest of the world. The government want things covered up…it wants to talk about work done by ”independent “ scientists…when that is an opinion on original work done long ago, not an original piece of new work. There will be new incinerators, new waste streams and new problems.

Croydon Advertiser publicises the issue.

Link to story online

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Environmental Justice has a price..and the other side will use financial thuggery to bully you to silence:

The timing of protest is important in a financial context. Protest hardest and most often ,early,when it is still “free”.If you leave it till the formal planning stages it may already be too late,as it will be “expensive”.If you put an incinerator into a dense population, one of the reasons it is silly is that a large public opinion can be grown to come on your opposition side.Beware industry tactics that encourage late attention…well into the legal process.Here’s why:

From the Guardian 27/05/09

“In a recent campaign against the London borough of Hillingdon for failing to stop pollution from a coffee factory, locals were threatened with costs of £28,000 for simply applying to the court for permission to make a challenge.
"Whilst it is unlikely that our client would have been ordered to pay all, it did have a chilling effect and added to fund-raising pressures, which led them to withdraw," Gita Parihar, the solicitor at FoE who helped them with their legal aid application, says.
Paul Stookes, a lawyer who represents the Peacehaven residents, cites the recent case of Frank Morgan and Cathy Baker, neighbours who live close to a compost site in Publow, near Bristol. They complain of smells emanating from the site which are so bad Morgan claims to be stuck in his home "like a prisoner". They are also concerned about the dangers of bio-aerosols being released into the air.
Morgan and Baker were landed with a £25,000 legal bill after being granted an injunction to stop the site, which was later overturned. They were not backed by legal aid, but the claim was funded thorough legal expenses insurance contained in a household insurance policy.
The high court judge Mr Justice Sullivan highlighted the case in a report last year, Ensuring access to environmental justice in England and Wales, which found that only the "very rich or very poor" could afford to fight environmental schemes. In March, the court of appeal overturned the costs order and the case is now going to a full trial.
Stookes argues that these are the cases the government has committed itself to protecting by signing the Aarhus convention more than a decade ago. Under this the government promised to make sure ordinary members of the public who wish to pursue environmental challenges should have access to legal redress that were "fair, equitable and not prohibitively expensive".
FoE's Michaels argues there are "very particular problems with legal aid" and the bringing of environmental cases, not least that public funding is only available to individuals and not community groups or environmental non-governmental organisations who might be better placed to fund challenges.
"In some cases the group can put forward one of their members who might happen to be financially eligible, but that comes with a whole range of usual problems. Is there somebody in the group eligible for legal aid? The threshold for legal aid is pretty tight," says Michaels.
Even then the Legal Services Commission often asks for a contribution to cover the other side's legal costs. In the case of Peacehaven the legal action was taken in one person's name, and the contribution asked for and raised by the people of Peacehaven for the judicial review was £5,000. Although a sizeable sum, FoE says it is a low figure. The community dug deep to cover the amount, only to be forced to call it day when the stakes were raised even higher.”
The incinerator plans at Capel were defeated in the High Court after a long legal process.If people don’t know where that is…the plumes would threaten Dorking,Reigate and some of the most valuable properties and farms in the country.I don’t think that money was the sort of problem it would be in Thornton Heath ,for example.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009



It’s quite difficult to realise the river Wandle is in a valley, when you are standing in Wandle Park, say. If you stand on the top of Banstead Road South on a clear day, you can see the ridge on which the Crystal Palace transmitter stands to the north. In between is a depression, really quite striking. It is part of the southern rim of the bowl inside which London has grown. The local part, in which a form of incinerator is likely to be built, to join the three others already on the eastern side (Edmonton, Belvedere and Lewisham). In the wrong weather conditions, an inversion layer can put a saucepan lid of warmer air over still, colder air. Like in the 1952 smog. This time what will be trapped will be invisible.

It is not a coincidence that the Megacities most troubled by air pollution are all forms of bowl cities: Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Beijing and London, already the most polluted in Europe, with the UK facing prosecution for breaking EU health based regulations. In the next ten years traffic is predicted to grow by 13%, jams by 60% and the population by 800,000. Things need to change drastically, and soon, to reduce the 4,400 annual death toll directly from air pollution. How many thousands of lorries will it take to deliver 200,000 tons of rubbish to Beddington, and the residues? When the roads are likely to be even more snarled up than before. Add to that the particulate pollution from the chimneys !

The level of the river Wandle is bound to rise. Much sooner than predicted before. Torrential rains will occasionally cause floods. Unfortunately for all of us the Victorians did not think to line their rubbish dumps, nor their industrial waste pits (though the US does not consider lining helps). When waters rise these sites will leak their poisons into the water table. The North-West planning group for climate change are seriously concerned about this in the Mersey basin, which has a lot. What about London’s Thames, and its tributaries?



Apparently there are tons of technologies to choose from out there. Is that 200,000 or 400,000 or 600,000 or 800,000 tons of technology, sorry, rubbish, a year that the SLWP are going to contract for. Sites will be “modular”, who will decide when the next module will be added…..the councils’ need for extra capacity or the contractor’s need for more profit? A local councillor said at one of the consultation meetings that the borough ought to ask for a 110% capacity, so it could earn some money (also indicating that the site would be in his borough).Meaning that out borough sources of rubbish would generate “profit”. In Germany the large incinerators have contracts to burn Dutch rubbish from over the border……even importing 280,000 tons of Australian hexachlorobenzenes, so dangerous that the tankers had to be kept out of the shipping lanes.

Another little trick the incinerator companies and DEFRA like to play is to state various mortality rates, emissions and pollutants as 0.00x value per ton. This sounds small, until you multiply them by 200,000 (etc.).

The London Waste Board is keeping a very low profile at the moment, but did give evidence at the latest GLA Environment Committee meetings on air pollution. It is chaired by Boris Johnston, who has, single-handedly, reversed more clean air policies in his first year than anyone created. Two of its council representatives are involved with the SLWP, and a third has the Edmonton incinerator in his patch. Its representative at the GLA was keen to make explicit that “wood, paper and cardboard” might be considered as incinerator fuel. He repeated this twice.

Last year the High Court ruled, when protesters fought the change of fuels of a local incinerator to rubber tyres and tarmac, that the original licence for burning did not have to be amended, nor additional planning permission sought, for this change in fuels. So, one day paper, the next rubber…it’s all the same to the law!


Pyrolysis, the poisoned peninsula and the problems of decommissioning.

The contemporary world faces a toxic legacy: environmental contamination caused by past industrial activities. In Britain most came from gasworks and coke plants which used pyrolysis to convert coal to gas.The by-products of pyrolysis are some of the most carcinogenic compounds known to man. In addition to concentrating pollution geographically, the manufacture of gas and coke displaced it chronologically by creating hazards that would long endure. Today, decades after they ceased production, many of the places where gasworks and coke plants once stood remain contaminated by toxic by-products.

Both the Dome and the Olympic Park had the bad luck to be planned and built on contaminated sites.The experimental nuclear reactor of Queen Mary’s college and its associated contamination provided considerable extra expense for one set of developers and the site of the South Metropolitan Gas company became a nightmare for the Dome builders.

The Greenwich peninsula contained "hot spots" with particularly high concentrations and quantities of hazardous chemicals. One of these was a big underground tar tank which had been shattered by a Luftwaffe bomb. But the chemicals left in the ground by years of spills and leakages dotted around the site had spread widely with the flow of groundwater. One type of waste, a catalyst contaminated with cyanide, was used as a foundation for roads there. The decontamination work has involved pumping up contaminated water and separating out the noxious chemicals, and taking 200,000 tons away in hundreds of lorry loads of the most contaminated soil to landfill sites (where are they now?) at a cost initially projected at 10.5 million but ended up half complete at 185 million.Any further development there can only be strictly curtailed, and a Japanese buyer walked away.

When any modern technology has at its base the physical chemistry process of pyrolysis it has the problem of how to dispose of the ash and tar.First there will be the storage costs,then the decomissioning.Be sure they will be fully accounted for in the contract, and not, like in the nuclear industry, left to be picked up by the local council tax payer.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Quick Burn-Fast Buck, the Perverse incentives to Pollute and Commercial Confidentiality

Virtually all the serious breaches of incinerator emissions laws in America and France are related to the burner being paid by the lorry-load. The slower burn is the safer burn, the completer burn. What happens when you want to burn those autumn leaves quicker, and put too much on the bonfire? It gets smoky straightaway and sometimes even goes out.
So, when an incinerator is commissioned, and has test burns for about a year,(England’s newest and best…Colnbrook….has been having problems here), people can work out the maximum rate of inputs to the burner air flows and the chimney draughts and ash catching methods. It’s like tuning a tuba, or a horn. So people can come up with optimum speeds for doing the job right.

France had an incinerator company, with government connections, whose management told the workforce to become “more productive”. In order to deal with more lorries they shut down the safety equipment (the chimney ash collectors),speeded up the screw feed drives and did this all at night, so that the inhabitants did not see the plume of smoke this tinkering produced. The local cancer rates shot up and , the locals blogged,7,000 cattle had to be slaughtered because of becoming “dioxinated”.

In the USA more than half of the breaches reported by a federal agency were related to speeding up the feed drives or bypassing the safety chimneys, or both.

Do you want “commercial confidentiality” to block public oversight of these issues? Do you really trust any government to put public safety first, above their version of a cost-benefit equation (where the mortality figures are often skewed)?


The new planning fix, councils’ duty of care and faux-consultations

The incinerator industry don’t want health effects and real before and after pollutant monitoring to be discussed now…they want it as part of the “planning process”, somewhere a long way down the line. The new legislation that the Labour government has brought in to steamroller Nuclear and Heathrow 3 can be just as easily used for Incinerators. It is a very different planning regime than the one we have got used to. More draconian, shorter, more limited witnesses, less appeal.
Councils are saying that there are lots of technologies out there…you bet there are….clean, dirty and very dirty….but they say they aren’t expert enough to decide what they should be (this is a real problem the country round) and will leave it to the chosen contractor. Really!?
What about their duty of care to the community, not only their own, but those neighbouring ones that are not part of the consultation process, but will be affected by burner accidents and chimney “leaks”. They will be footing the bill for disasters, not the PFI profiteers. They will be the ones in court using our council tax to fund their defence in cases of alleged negligence, like that in the High Court now about Corby.
The public should be consulted on the type of contract, the safety monitoring and frequency and independence of inspection regimes, the health monitoring of nearby nursery and primary schools, the pregnancy outcomes in the surrounding areas. Instead we are infantilised by badly structured documents where health was not even an option…….


We are all going to have to understand a bit more about "Technologies", the new PR buzzword used to cover a multitude of sins.There are certainly many varied approaches some more profitable than others....but you are never going to compost plastics or tyres or tarmac or asbebestos or electricals or pesticides.So here goes..with all credits to the British Society of Ecological Medicine

The Problem of Ash

The incineration of waste produces a large amount of ash, amounting to 30% of the weight of the original waste; 40-50% of the volume of compacted waste. This is important as landfill sites are becoming less and less available so there is an urgent need for a workable alternative. It is clear that incineration will not solve the landfill problem since it can only reduce the bulk by just under half. Little thought has been given to this and incinerator operators are still being given 20 to 30 year contracts creating problems for the future.
Incinerators produce two types of ash, bottom ash and fly ash, sometimes called air pollution control (APC) residues. The latter is highly toxic and listed as an absolute hazardous substance in the European Waste Catalogue. It has high concentration of heavy metals and dioxins. Many substances such as metals have little toxicity before incineration but become hazardous once converted to particulates or fine particles in the ash. In fact, the combination of pollutants in the fly ash can amplify the toxicity. Using a biological test, researchers found that the toxicity in fly ash was five times greater than could be accounted for by the content of dioxins, furans and PCBs303.Fugitive ash is the stuff that leaks out of the holes, and is a local problem.
There is a basic problem with modern incinerators. The less air pollution produced, the more toxic the ash. Early incinerators emitted large volumes of dioxins. These emissions have been significantly reduced, but at the cost of a corresponding increase in the fly ash, with similar increases in heavy metals and other toxic chemicals. An incinerator burning 400,000 tonnes of waste annually for its 25 years of operation would produce approximately half a million tonnes of highly toxic fly ash3. Apart from vitrification, no adequate method of disposing of fly ash has been found. The EU Commission have stated that leaching from landfill sites may be one of the most important sources of dioxins in the future. Heavy metals are known to have high leachability. The US Environmental Protection Agency considers that all landfills eventually leach through their liners. Most of the pollutants are very long lasting indeed and bioaccumulate.

Advanced Thermal Technologies (ATT) and Plasma Gasification

In contrast with non-thermal methods, any thermal method of dealing with waste carries an inherent risk of causing fatalities. Because of this thermal methods should only be used for residual waste after full separation of recyclables has taken place. If thermal methods are used, these should always be the safest ones available. In effect this means plasma gasification or gasification using the Thermoselect process. Japan has more experience of incineration than any other country and has started to use plasma gasification as a safer alternative to incineration. Plasma gasification is also in use in Canada.
Plasma gasification achieves the final objective by disposing of the residual waste after separation and recycling and other separating technologies such as mechanical-biological treatment. It can deal safely with the most hazardous types of waste and can produce up to three times as much energy as incineration.
Gasification has been employed by the natural gas industry for over 80 years but has not, so far, been used extensively for dealing with waste, although such plants are now in operation in Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Japan. Gasification produces high temperatures and can thermally decompose complex and hazardous organic molecules into gases and benign simple substances. Plasma refers to the gas when it has become ionized and this happens when an electric current is passed through the gas. A very important distinction from incineration is that it does not produce ash. The gas cleaning process can convert many contaminants into environmentally benign and useful by-products. The abatement equipment of incinerators and gasification units is very different. If the abatement equipment in an incinerator fails, as is all too common, people downwind from the installation will be subjected to dangerous pollution. If the abatement equipment in a gasification unit fails it will cause serious damage to the plant itself – so the plant has to be built to a much higher quality.
In a plasma gasification plant, the residual toxic substances including metals become encapsulated in silicate which is like being encased in stone. The plant will remove the toxic and persistent compounds from plastics and other chemicals and reform them. A good quality plasma gasification unit will not produce any adverse residues or by-products, only synthesis gas, silica, sulphur and salt. Synthesis gas is a useful by-product which can be used as a fuel; ─ a major financial advantage which allows the capital costs of the unit to be paid within a 7 year period. Although it is a relatively expensive process, it is far cheaper than incineration once the health costs are taken into account . Note also that it would not incur costs under the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, potentially saving millions of pounds annually. A recent review of plasma gasification considered it to be a promising alternative to older technologies


The “Enclosed facilities with a Chimney Report” SLWP Feb 2009

Or how to fool most of the people some of the time (page 29)

Would you trust a bunch of administrators who were so frightened of an open public discussion of incineration, that they used those words to describe an incinerator, and hid the new hazardous waste streams that central government expects to be handled locally?

Rubber tyres
Animal bodies?
Radioactive medical waste
Infectious medical waste

Transported over public roads to a site where the dusts fly up the chimney or the ash leaks out the gaps or gets spread around the site, in house building materials or motorway foundations to leak its poisons slowly into the groundwater. Chimney ash washes collected in ponds for our new rains to flood, or even brand new collecting bags to burst.

Inspection regimes that are a joke because they ask permission in advance, are rare, don`t prosecute gross breaches and take no account of the “turn off and on” pollution peaks.

PFI contracts that leave all the clean up costs of accidents to the councils and take all the profits (like the nuclear industry).

But you don’t have to worry, because you won’t be asked your opinion on any of those questions. They are far too important for you to have a view on. Trust the incinerator industry and the Environment Agency to know what’s best, and all those MPs in Westminster…who have no financial connections with any of this whatsoever.
As none of this is happening you don’t need to monitor any health issues as a baseline, or set up pollution control monitoring of earth, air and water. You don’t have to count stillbirths, malformations and infant deaths before and after, or look very closely at the cancer rates…its just not businesslike, is it?

Monday, 18 May 2009


There’s a massive re-branding of incinerators going on. The government and the international incinerator builders know they must change the public’s mind about their terrible image .The history of numerous serious accidents, deliberate flouting of regulations to ghastly effect and just incompetence and human error have left a bad taste in the mouth.
So, Modern Thermal Treatment, Energy from Waste and Biogas have sprung into being as the flag wavers of experimental methods of mass waste disposal. The London Waste Board is supposed to plan our future, but it is “packed” with people who have vested interests in incineration. The South London Waste Plan started a consultation, which it then stopped half way. Its promised to collect and share the replies of people who had taken the trouble to attend, but this has been hidden away in appendices. Some of its groups were prevented from discussing their worries on the night. There is a suggestion that they only need to have shown willing, a spurious consultation, to get their licence to “buy” an incinerator.
The problem is that there is very big money involved here. The other problem is that some of the worst potential effects are delayed, by which time the birds will have flown. The serious air pollution you will be able to measure straight away (if you are allowed), but the peak of cancers come twenty years later. The way to understand the problem of dioxins is to know they are like the body’s own hormones. These chemical messengers of the blood and brain are very, very, tiny, weigh next to nothing …but are just the right shape to be “recognised” and their message understood. If you think of some of the most important ones, the steroids, they are shaped a bit like the Olympic rings logo, you would be surprised and shocked to see that dioxins and furans have a very similar shape. The body mistakes them for “messengers”…and switches on by mistake (millions of cancer doses in a gram).
Japan is the country that has most incinerators, and has burned for longest in the world. It was also fire-bombed extensively in the war. The meat and milk it ate came from its own fields, and its animals had concentrated the chemicals, which are naturally indestructible. Its cancer rates have doubled since the war, and it now has the highest rate of male colorectal caner in the world (WHO 2005). DEFRA, the government body responsible for selling the safety of incinerators has a track record of its own….It sacked the scientist who discovered that BSE might move to humans and thus delayed effective action…it mismanaged the first foot and mouth outbreak and started the second one all by itself! It tried to rush the Royal Society (independent scientists) into agreeing that incinerators were safe, but they refused.
There is one potentially safe method of incineration that uses very high temperatures and turns everything into glass…but it is expensive, and much less profitable (PLASMA-GAS). I bet we will be offered “cheap and dirty”, so the profits can roll. Shame about the hundreds of thousands who will live under the plume and not have been given any voice.

THE PLUME Croydon Town Centre Petition

Many residents who live within the wind rose area signed the petition on Saturday 17th May. The image shows the potential area that could be affected by 100ft stack - known as a wind rose - if an incinerator was built in Beddington.