Documents Show Scilly’s Moorwell Incinerator Repeatedly Breached Dioxin Emission Limits

The waste incinerator at Moorwell

The waste incinerator at Moorwell

Documents obtained from the Environment Agency show that Scilly’s waste incinerator at Moorwell emitted dangerous chemicals, including highly toxic dioxins, at levels way above the permitted limits.

This continued for at least three years while Council staff struggled to bring the emissions under control.

Under a Freedom of Information request, Radio Scilly has obtained around 400 pages of documents that show the agency was concerned about the operation of the incinerator as far back as April 2010.

They issued a warning letter to the Council in June 2011, and an enforcement notice in April 2012.

Then in February this year, they wrote to the Chief Technical Officer Neville Gardner saying that they suspected the Council had committed offences under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.

He was asked to answer a series of questions under formal caution.

It was only after the Council appointed an external Compliance Manager from waste consultants SLR to run the facility that the Environment Agency withdrew their enforcement notice.

The plant is now operating within the permitted limits.

Between April 2010 and December 2012 the incinerator routinely breached emission levels into the air for dioxins, hydrochloric acid, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide.

Initially, these were classified as category 3, on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being the most serious.

But this was escalated to category 2 in July 2011, a level described by the Environment Agency as “potentially having a significant effect on the environment.”

At one point, in March 2012, dioxin levels reached 65 times the legal limit, and levels of these chemicals were routinely between 2 and 9 times those permitted.

Dioxin levels are measured every six months, so it’s not known what the readings were between those times.

The World Health Organisation ranks dioxins as ‘highly toxic’ because prolonged exposure can cause cancer, birth defects, miscarriages and damage to the immune system.

Radio Scilly has found no evidence that people living or using allotments near the facility were warned of the breaches.

Clive Sibley from the Moorwell Improvement Group told us they were not advised that the plant was being operated outside prescribed levels and this is clearly a concern for all of the families living within the area.

He’s pleased that the situation has been identified and resolved, and hopes to discuss the matter further at the forthcoming Waste Forum.

The current Chair and Vice Chair of Council were also unaware of the issue, even though Mr Gardner was dealing with the matter as recently as February this year.

In a statement, Mr Gardner said he didn’t believe the local population was at any risk or that there would be any direct link between the emissions from the plant and health issues locally.

He said that, given the relatively small scale of the facility, it was concluded that whilst emission limits were exceeded from time to time the total emissions were very small and not at levels that were considered to constitute a risk to health and the environment.

“This of course does not mean that exceeding emission limits is acceptable,” added Mr Gardner, “hence the work in recent months to address this issue to the full satisfaction of the Environment Agency.”

We understand senior councillors will be meeting with officers this week to discuss the matter further.

9 Responses to Documents Show Scilly’s Moorwell Incinerator Repeatedly Breached Dioxin Emission Limits