Environment Agency sets tough conditions for hazwaste

In one of the first cases to be resolved since the controversial new regime for licensing landfill sites permitted to handle hazardous waste came into force in July, the Environment Agency has granted a PPC permit to a site operated by Grundon. LAWE reports on the strict conditions imposed by the Agency on the operation of the facility

On 16 September 2004, the Environment Agency announced that, "after very careful consideration" it had decided to grant Grundon Waste Management Ltd a Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) permit to allow the company to operate a hazardous waste landfill site at Wingmoor Farm, Bishops Cleeve, Gloucestershire.

In a lengthy statement, the Agency said: "The tough new permit conditions we have imposed on Grundons will make it one of the most tightly regulated sites in the country. These permit conditions, which Grundons have to comply with in operating the landfill, will protect the public and the wider environment. We will be inspecting the site thoroughly to ensure that they do comply."

The Environment Agency explained that the new PPC regulations, under which this permit had been granted, allowed it to regulate the site more comprehensively than a Waste Management Licence (WML) would. They regulated the effects of the site on air, land and water and cover noise and off-site dust, which were not within the Agency's remit under the former licence.

PPC regime

The PPC regulations apply to all existing and new landfill operations in England and Wales. The Regulations implement the European Directive on land filling, which requires sites to be classified as hazardous, non-hazardous or inert. It also bans certain materials such as liquids, explosives, tyres. All hazardous waste must be pre treated prior to disposal to reduce its hazardous nature and ensure they do not have an adverse effect in the future.

New regulations, in force from July 2004, classify more items as hazardous waste and restrict the types of material that can be sent to landfill. These new regulations will improve the standards of disposal sites and benefit health and the environment but they also mean that there will be fewer places to get rid of hazardous waste.

Local concerns

The Agency also stated: "We recognise the concerns of the local community and have given very careful consideration to the application before deciding to grant this permit. The scientific research and enquiries on which the decision was based have taken over a year and have involved wide consultations with local authorities, parish councils, the Primary Care Trust and local community bodies. In reaching our decision we have, in particular, considered all the comments made by local residents.

"We have notified all interested parties of our decision immediately and we are sending them a summary of our decision document. The full permit and a document explaining our decision will be published shortly." The Agency said that it would be meeting the community groups to discuss the work it would be doing on inspections and what information would made available to the public via the public register.

Area Environment Manager, Stuart Baker, explained: "We have examined this application very carefully to ensure that no significant risk is posed to health or the environment by the operation of the site, and that the legal requirements are met.

"If we were not satisfied that the site could be operated safely, we would not have issued this permit. The conditions we have imposed on Grundons are tough and designed to protect the community and the environment. Grundons must comply with these conditions and we will ensure that they do."

Harvey Bradshaw, Lower Severn Area Manager, said of the decision: "We are aware of the public concerns over the application. The Agency has taken account of all the concerns expressed during the consultation period and we have put conditions in the permit to address them. These new Regulations are tougher and are designed to give better protection to the public and the environment."

He added: "We attended a public meeting in January to explain the Agency's role in regulating these sites. We will now be arranging surgeries to give members of the public an opportunity to raise any concerns they still have. We are making arrangements to explain our decision to stakeholders who have already been in discussions with us, such as members of SWARD."

Site operations

The Wingmoor Farm landfill site has operated under a waste management licence but applied for a permit when the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Regulations came into force last year. It is permitted to landfill up to 150,000 tonnes per year of hazardous waste, in line with its Planning Permission. It was one of around 50 applications received by the Agency for hazardous waste landfills in England and Wales.

As part of the application process, there was extensive public consultation. Comments were received from numerous organisations and individuals. Full consideration has been given to these comments and a permit produced to protect the environment and prevent harm to human health.

Grundons site at Bishops Cleeve is permitted to take Air Pollution Control (APC) residues. The quantity the site can take is restricted by the conditions of the permit and the capacity of the company's on site treatment processes. APC dust is classified as hazardous waste by the nature of its alkalinity (high ph) and high levels of heavy metals. The treatment process keeps the generation of dust to a minimum. The dust arrives in vacuum sealed tankers and is subjected to a closed treatment process during which it is mixed into a wet slurry, to control the escape of dust.

The company is required to monitor dust levels according to an agreed Working Plan. It has four dust monitors on the perimeter of the site. The Agency checks the results of these monitors. In addition, it carries out its own monitoring using two mobile monitors, which allows the regulator to us to check dust levels wherever required. This number can be increased as required, the Agency says.

APC dust is hazardous and needs to be controlled. The air monitoring results are assessed on an ongoing basis. Based on the results, the Agency states; "We are satisfied that the control measures in place ensure that it does not pose a risk to human health. If we were not satisfied, we would modify or revoke the permit to ensure there would be no harm to human health."

The site will not be permitted to take any radioactive wastes as defined by the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 - such substances are specifically excluded. The site will not be permitted to take asbestos until the operators have submitted to the Agency a thorough risk assessment and proposals have been approved. The site will not be allowed to accept asbestos until the Agency is completely satisfied that it will pose no risk to the environment or human health.


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