A waste incinerator in South Wales has been shut down and an Environment Agency investigation launched after the facility was found to have breached emission limits for the second time.
The Materials Recovery and Energy Centre at Crymlyn Burrows, Swansea was found by EA officers to have exceeded the limits set out in environmental permits for dioxin emissions.
Steve Brown, area manager for EA Wales said: “Environmental permits are there to make sure that local people and the environment are protected from the impact of sites like these.
“They have strict conditions and emission controls which we will enforce. The operator is complying fully with our investigation.
“We will make sure they do all that they can to rectify this problem as a matter of urgency and we will consider taking further action if it is appropriate.”
The facility, which processes household waste from Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend councils, was previously shut down for breaching emission limits and accepted a caution from the EA in 2011.
It has been dogged by legal wrangling and controversy since it opened in 2002 with residents’ complaints about odours, and fires at the facility in 2003 and 2010.
Huw Brunt from the Public Health Wales said: “Raised levels of dioxin emissions over a short time period are unlikely to pose an appreciable health risk to the local population.
“However, a number of breaches of the dioxin emission limit have been reported at this site over the past couple of years.
“This recurring problem raises associated public health concerns and we would like to see this situation resolved as soon as possible.”
EA said it was continuing its investigations at the site and would consider if further action should be taken.
The operators Neath Port Talbot Recycling Ltd, owned by Neath Port Talbot Council have begun cleaning a section of the plant which could be the cause of the breach. EA said energy-from-waste operations at the site will not resume until the company can demonstrate it is in compliance with its permit.
Other operations at the facility are continuing.
Will Watson, director at Neath Port Talbot Recycling, told MRW there had been three recent test results showing elevated levels of dioxins.
“We think we have identified the cause and we think we have a solution”, he said. “We have begun specialist chemical cleaning of a section of duct between the bag house and the stack.”
He said if the cleaning solved the problem and the next test results were ok, the plant would be up and running after Christmas and the cleaning process would be carried out twice as often in future.
But if the next test results show continuing elevated dioxin levels he said “we’ll have to have a more fundamental rethink about the waste-to-energy operation”.