Viridor, the multinational firm that makes millions in profits from being allowed to pollute the air across south London, has admitted that a power outage at their Beddington Lane incinerator saw them leaving potentially toxic waste to “smoulder” untreated, possibly for as more than 24 hours.
Residents across Croydon, Mitcham and Sutton had complained of “a very bad burning smell of plastic” and “black acrid smoke spewing out of the facility”.
“It’s disgusting,” said one resident forced to breath the polluted air.
Dave Tchil, a Labour councillor for Hackbridge ward on Sutton Council, reported the concerns to the Environment Agency and was shocked to discover that this was the first that the watchdog had heard about the latest incident at the Beddington plant.
“Worryingly, there’s no evidence, to date, of something called a Schedule 5 notification being sent immediately by the operator to the Environment Agency,” the councillor said.
Tchil suggests that this is very likely yet another breach of Viridor’s operating licence – at a time when the Environment Agency is considering an application for a further increase in the incinerator’s burn capacity.
The Viridor incinerator is notorious for having broken its licence requirements more than 40 times in the past couple of years.
Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that in some wards in northern Croydon, downwind from Beddington, infant mortality rates increased by 233% after its first year of operation.
“I consider this to be a serious incident,” Tchil said today, mocking the Liberal Democrats who control Sutton Council by adding, “This is definitely smoke coming from the chimneys, and not the ‘steam’ that Sutton’s LibDems and Viridor like to claim.”
More seriously, Tchil points out that with the Viridor plant not operating properly, higher levels of toxic pollutants have been released into the atmosphere. “I’m very concerned that the likely failure to disperse these pollutants into the atmosphere… has been really compromised,” he said.
Viridor were appointed to operate the incinerator on a £1billion, 25-year contract by the South London Waste Partnership, an unelected local quango run by Kingston, Merton, Sutton and Croydon councils.
A committee made up of councillors from the groups which control those councils is supposed to meet regularly, although scheduled SLWP meetings in September and October have been cancelled, without explanation.
Today, in an operations note issued by the press officer for Viridor, they admitted that usual processes for reducing pollution and removing toxic particles – what they call the “active abatement process” – “was not operating”.
The Viridor statement said that the incinerator plant “experienced a power failure with the main connection to the UK Power Network yesterday evening.
“As part of the Beddington [incinerator]’s management protocols any power failure will see no further waste processed.
“In line with design parameters the [incinerator] will contain any residual waste that was being processed. This waste will smolder [sic], any flue gases will pass through the bag filters to remove particulates, however the active abatement process was not operating.
“No new waste has been introduced into the [incinerator] during this time.”
Viridor said that an investigation was underway and that the Environment Agency had been informed, although the statement offered no indication of when the EA had been notified.
Read more: Infant death rates were up by 233% after incinerator fired up
Read more: Viridor’s charge sheet: incinerator operator’s eco-vandalism
Read more: Viridor incinerator breaks its toxic VOC permit for 40th time
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