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Faulty monitoring at EfW facility leads to anomalous dioxin readings over 10 times safe limit

A Wolverhampton energy-from-waste (EfW) facility mistakenly read dioxin levels at more than 10 times the recommended safe limit, due to a faulty monitoring process.

According to MES Environmental’s annual report, submitted for its Wolverhampton EfW facility, dioxin counts in the first quarter of 2010 appeared to stand at 1.63ng/cu m – 16 times the environmental limit value of 0.1ng/cu m.

But following an investigation, it was established that the anomalous results were due to a monitoring fault rather than any actual increase in dioxin levels, a fault that has since been corrected.

An Environment Agency spokesman told MRW: “An investigation into this abnormally high result concluded that the reading taken was an anomalous result, as no other  readings normally associated with dioxin were found to be at elevated levels. All plant performance measures were as expected, the abatement plant was operating correctly and there were no abnormal waste deliveries at that time. 

“The investigation did identify failings in the monitoring process that could have led to this anomalous result, and we therefore recommended improvements in the monitoring procedures to ensure consistency in the future, which have been implemented.”

MES Environmental manager Stuart Thompson told MRW: “We did a full investigation, we retested it and it came back with the usual levels. [Anomalous readings] can be because of the extractive testing as tiny amounts are involved in the sample. Problems to do occur – it’s just a fact of life.

“We could have just put the re-test into the report. But we’re not trying to hide anything so we put everything in. We like to be as thorough as possible.”

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