Labour official wants new scrutiny body to oversee incinerator

A leading official in Sutton Labour has called on his party colleagues in Croydon and Merton to establish urgently a scrutiny body to keep the South London Waste Partnership in check, in order to better monitor the emissions from the Beddington Lane incinerator.

SLWP manages contracts across Kingston, Merton, Sutton and Croydon

The SLWP is the body which Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Kingston councils as its members, and which set up the £1billion deal with Viridor to have a waste incinerator operating at Beddington Lane for 25 years, and which also oversees the work of rubbish contractors Veolia across south London.

The SLWP is run by an “executive board”, made up of two representatives of the majority political group at each of the four councils which are members. There are no seats on the SLWP board for elected councillors from the minority parties in those boroughs.

Thus, when John Drage, the Sutton LibDem  who sat on the SLWP, was pushing through the Viridor incinerator deal, there was no effective scrutiny of the decision, nor of Drage’s close personal relationship with Colin Drummond, the chairman of Viridor.

It was only last month, following recommendations from Stuart Collins, the Labour councillor from Croydon who is the borough’s cabinet member for fly tips and unswept streets, that a regular review of the performance of Veolia was agreed to be added to the agenda of future SLWP board meetings.

According to Charlie Mansell, pictured left, a former Labour councillor in Sutton, the time is long overdue for the SLWP to provide greater accountability from its contractors.

“One of problems is the SLWP board is an executive board and not a scrutiny body,” Mansell said.

“The four councils should set up a joint scrutiny committee to meet at least twice a year to review activity, and the incinerator’s emissions.

“The council’s cabinet member reps on the board are not scrutineers, but the commissioners.”

Mansell wants Collins and his counterpart in Merton to take the initiative and push for a SLWP scrutiny body.

“It would be great if Croydon Council wrote to the other three councils and requested the setting up of a joint scrutiny body, recognising SLWP board members are constrained by their contractual role from publicly scrutinising the contract.”

Going for the burn: only Viridor has access to emissions data from their incinerator

Mansell’s suggestion has the broad support of Tory and independent councillors in Sutton, as well as residents’ groups in Merton who have been dismayed by the fall in standards in the street cleaning and refuse collection services in their borough since Veolia was handed the contract through the SLWP. It has prompted them to dub their borough “Mucky Merton”.

At present, emissions data from the incinerator is the responsibility of… Viridor themselves. So far, the operator has failed to, or refused to, publish any emissions data since the plant has been conducting trial burns over the past three months. Environmentalists, concerned about the potential pollution caused by incineration, have been highly critical of this self-monitoring arrangement.

“My suggestion would make the whole process more transparent,” Mansell said.

“By doing it twice a year there will be enough comparative data on waste going in to the incinerator and emissions data, and the meeting could be held in public and the contractor and board held to account.”

Over to you, “Clean Streets Stu”…

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4 Responses to Labour official wants new scrutiny body to oversee incinerator

  1. Excellent idea.

  2. The trouble is that any scrutiny committeee will be adding a false appearance of security:
    a) because the dust counters lie
    b) because the power of alphaemitters is not measured in bananas, coffee or “paper”
    c) Alphas are X20 more dangerous than “rays” and sit in your gut or lungs giving that local tissue a dose of very many chest X-ray equivalents
    d) Nuclear regulators are not about protecting the public, they are about industry PR


    TABLE 3.1. QUALITY FACTORS Radiation Energy Q
    gamma all 1
    beta all 1
    neutrons slow 5
    neutrons fast 20
    alpha all 20

    The Q of a certain type of radiation is related to the density of the ion tracks it leaves behind it in tissue; the closer together the ion pairs, the higher the Q.

    The Quality Factors for the various types of radiation are listed on the right. They are valid for relatively long-term exposures; they don’t apply to very large lifethreatening doses received in a short period of time like minutes or hours.
    Studies have shown that alpha and neutron radiation cause greater biological damage for a given energy deposition per kg of tissue than gamma radiation does. In other words, equal doses of, say, alpha and gamma radiation produce unequal biological effects. As already mentioned on page 72, this is because the body can more easily repair damage from radiation that is spread over a large area than that which is concentrated in a small area. Because more biological damage is caused for the same physical dose (i.e., the same energy deposited per unit mass of tissue), one gray of alpha or neutron radiation is more harmful than one gray of gamma radiation.
    The range of radiation exposures that people may experience is enormous, and it extends over several decades. One way to describe such a wide range easily is by using a log scale as shown in Fig. 3.5 on the next page. Here equal space is given to each decade (i.e., from 1 to 10 is given the same space as 10 to 100, or 100 to 1000). This enables us to locate information in more or less the right spot on a standard page . Take a look at Fig. 3.5. Some of the information might surprise you.

    100,000 Typical dose to the thyroid in radiation therapy
    10,000 Hospital leukaemia treatment — 50% successful

    1,000 Dose giving an extra 1% risk of cancer (250 mSv) Annual radon dose to Health Spa Workers (200 mSv)
    100 Estimated maximum CAT scan dose (40 mSv) Annual dose limit for Nuclear Energy Workers (20 mSv) Levels of natural background radiation in some parts of the world (10 – 15 mSv)
    10 Typical annual background dose in NB (2 mSv) Average annual dose to PLGS workers (1.5 mSv)
    1Annual dose limit for members of the general public (1 mSv)
    0.1Typical chest X-ray (70 µSv) NB Power target for dose to the public from PLGS emissions (50 µ Sv) Dose from one return flight from NB to BC (40 µSv)
    0.01 Annual dose from fall-out from past bomb tests (10 µSv) Annual dose from luminous signs, TV, smoke detectors (3 µSv) Typical annual dose to local residents from PLGS emissions (1 µ Sv)

    Fig. 3.5. A Log Scale of Radiation Doses in Society

    • I am sorry that you don’t like my alpha emitter comment.
      Can I urge you to look at Rotblat on wikepedia (extensive experience with the Japanese and at St Bart’s).
      You might also be surprised by the following statement (verbatim) from the US authorities:

      (Official Federal notice)
      Cancer Benefits Center for Downwinders
      – See If You Qualify for $50,000 –
      If you
      or a family member have had internal cancer or leukemia within the last
      fifty years (even if family member is deceased) or if you get cancer and lived
      in any of the following counties for a period of at least two years between
      January 21, 1951 and October 31, 1958 or during the entire month of July 1962.
      In ARIZONA – Apache, Coconino, Gila, Navajo, Yavapai. In NEVADA – Eureka,
      Lander, Lincoln, Nye, White Pine or the northern portion of Clark. In UTAH –
      Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, Millard, Piute, San Juan, Sevier, Washington or
      Wayne you may qualify for $50,000 tax free. The following are Primary cancers
      that are covered under this program:
      and female),
      than CLL or chronic lymphocytic leukemia),
      if there is evidence of cirrhosis or Hepatitis B),
      than Hodgkin’s disease),
      Small Intestine,
      This is not a class action lawsuit.This program has been approved and the
      compensation made available by the United States Congress.

  3. Lewis White says:

    When I last tried to understand the health aspects of incinerator emissions, I recall that that the Environment Agency only tested for a small range of pollutants— but this fails to include tests for a huge range of polluting chemical combinations that are made in the burning process, and which are now forming much of the “plume” from the incinerator chimney— and almost certainly , during certain climatic conditions where the smoke comes down rather than rising, is breathed in by someone downwind.

    I have no idea what the EA currently test for, but I applaud the proposal that there should be a scrutiny committee, backed up, I would hope, by appointment of independent scientists to analyse the samples and report on the implications.

    My rubbish bin, after recycling all cans and bottles and as much plastic as I can, is now virtually all plastic bags–the very burnable items that incinerators need to keep the home fires burning, but these give off tonnes of nasty fumes. Yet these very bags are mainly recyclable–at a cost.

    Surely every supermarket should have to take back all the plastic bag packaging they wrap their goods in?

    The other scandal that surely could be designed out of existence is packaging made of “mixed materials” which preclude straightforward recycling. An example– medication packs which have alloy on one side, and plastic on the “pop” side. Are these recyclable? Probably not. If they were made of a stronger alloy on one side, and weaker alloy on the “pop” side, they would be recyclable. So simple, so why do not governments legislate to eliminate these mixed material packages?

    The history of the human race can be traced by its rubbish almost as much as its art –from mesolothic to Celtic, Roman, medieval and Victorian and our own age. Rubbish seems inescapable , but native societies used every fraction of a slaughtered beast, and reused , mended and adapted as well as made new things.

    The built in obsolescence and throw away society spawned in the West in the 50’s has a lot to answer for, although it has had huge social benefits of cheap products for us all. The first challenge now is again to reuse, mend and adapt, but also to make these cheap options. Incineration certainly reduces the environmental disaster that is landfill.

    The second is to minimise incineration, and reuse / recycle as much as is possible after minimising packaging and banning the production of non-recyclable packaging.

    I remain optimistic , but here must be a better way that burning. We all breathe— and should have a human right to breathe fresh air.

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