Landfill over-reports deadly dioxin levels by factor of a million

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has come under fire for not enforcing stricter controls on data submitted to its pollution release inventory, amid revelations that vastly inaccurate figures have been recorded.

A survey conducted by environment journalist Rob Edwards found that publicly available information on toxic pollution within the register was wrong – sometimes by a factor of a million.

Landfill sites, chemical companies and paper mills are among those having accidently submitted incorrect data. In the worst case, a landfill site in Ayrshire reported releasing 100 times more of the deadly pollutant dioxin than the whole of the rest of the UK, getting its figures wrong by a factor of at least a million.

Charity WWF Scotland has called for urgent action to be taken to restore public confidence in official sources of pollution.

WWF Scotland’s director, Dr Richard Dixon, said: “This pollution register should be an invaluable tool for local communities and researchers, but this brief survey has turned up so many errors and on such a scale that it calls into question the whole value of the register itself.

“A landfill site claiming to have released 100 times the total UK emissions of one of the most toxic substances known to man should have set huge alarm bells ringing. Instead it was apparently accepted without question.

“SEPA clearly need major changes to the way they check the data that comes in from companies in future, but they also need to go back and check every item in the register if people are to trust it in future.

He also raised concerns that some companies may be deliberately under-reporting their pollution figures due to the lax controls.

“If companies can accidentally over-report by a factor of a million, there may be other companies who are deliberately getting away with under-reporting on a grand scale.

“The inadequacies of Scotland’s pollution register highlight the potential for bad companies to abuse the trusting relationship that SEPA tries to generate with industry.”

Maxine Perella

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