‘Too little, too late’ as our politicians wake up to incinerators

CROYDON COMMENTARY: With the Beddington Lane incinerator about to be fired up for trials, LEWIS WHITE, pictured left, wants to know why it has taken the powers-that-be so long to become alert to the potential threat to local air quality

How come that MPs (well, some of them anyway) and the London Assembly have only now just woken up to realising that air pollution in London is not solely a product of motor vehicle exhausts?.

It is tempting to voice a cry of “too little, too late” over the Beddington incinerator, but we should be thankful that at long last, this important issue of incineration is being raised at a high level. Waste incineration, especially when conducted in high density populated areas such as this part of south London, affects the health of us all.

The key question now is whether the proportion of toxic fumes in the air over south London once Beddington is fired up and eating the plastic and other burnable waste of four boroughs will be higher than it is at present.

My guess is that it will be higher, but it will take years for the health impacts to be felt, and longer for them to be collated (if at all), the significance of the results assessed and determined and acted on. Based on similar studies on the waste incinerator in Lewisham, that whole process might take 20 years, which will suit incinerator operators Viridor very nicely.

The Viridor incinerator at Beddington Lane

Some agencies have been busy in the past year conducting air quality tests across Sutton and Croydon to get detailed data on the situation before the incinerator begins operating.

It will provide compelling evidence once comparison figures become available in the months after the incinerator starts burning our rubbish, and the bigger volume of commercial waste needed to satisfy the maw of the furnaces. And we need to collate similar data from the air quality monitoring stations in Lambeth, Croydon and Merton for a similar exercise.

Many people in the South London Waste Partnership boroughs – Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Kingston – will escape the worst of any pollution from the Beddington chimneys. Because of the prevailing winds, the people who live to the west of the Beddington facility – most of Sutton, Merton and Kingston – will have little exposure.

But those close to and downwind of the chimneys, people living, working or going to schools in Beddington, Pollards Hill, Waddon, West Croydon, Broad Green and Thornton Heath, East Mitcham, Norbury and Norwood, will have the air that breathe affected by what is plumed into it from the incinerator, because, even in today’s globally warming world, the prevailing wind is still from the south-west.

Sad that these recipient areas are the ones with fewer trees and already not very good air quality – indeed, along by the Purley Way the air quality is in breach of air pollution limits. And these are areas with a poorer and less healthy population, by and large, than our leafier suburban areas to the south and west.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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