Mor Hafren: Energy Recovery Facility

Received 27 November 2020
From Lesley Read


The proposal to build an incinerator in Rumney would, if accepted, constitute a serious health-hazard. It would be in an area of high population and within 2,000 metres of 10 schools. At a time when there is huge concern among scientists about the dangers of poor air-quality, caused by emissions from all kinds of sources, it would be irresponsible to allow an incinerator to be built in or near a residential area. Furthermore, the Wentloog Levels would also be affected, with serious and potentially irreversible harm to flora and fauna. The prevailing wind is from the south-west which means any emissions would be carried over a large,densely populated area of Cardiff and beyond. The lorries bringing in the waste would themselves give-off emissions proven to be dangerous to health, and would constitute an additional threat to safety on already-busy roads, as well as creating unacceptable noise-levels.

It is interesting to note that the proposed site is in one of the poorer parts of Cardiff where poverty and deprivation already take a toll on the health and well-being of residents. No-one ever proposes that incinerators are situated in prosperous areas of a city. In Cardiff, the most desirable and expensive areas to live happen to be in the north so that emissions from an incinerator sited in, say, Lisvane, would be blown, by the prevailing winds, away from residential areas. Of course, I am not suggesting that an incinerator should be built in Lisvane or anywhere else in Cardiff: my point is simply that Lisvane would never have been considered in the first place. It is always people living in areas with the highest levels of poverty, and with consequent poor health, high mortality, large numbers of schoolchildren receiving free school meals and families relying on food banks, etc., who are expected to put up with a further reduction in their standard of living. This attitude on the part of local authorities is reprehensible and has no place in town-planning.

All the reassurances in the world that the emissions from the incinerator would not be dangerous or that the filters would ensure public safety are, frankly, so much hot air. Safety mechanisms can fail, and toxins found to be harmful only after years of exposure. And nothing will filter out the pollution caused by the lorries travelling to and from the site. For some time now, there have been intermittent electronic signs on the M4 in Wales encouraging drivers to slow-down because "Pollution kills", a tacit admission by the authorities of the dangers to health caused by heavy, fast-moving traffic. What hypocrisy, then, to consider building a plant that will in itself pollute the atmosphere and also bring dozens of dangerous, polluting lorries into Rumney every day. It is undeniable that accidents can happen. The potential loss of life and long-term damage to health that an explosion in an incinerator situated anywhere in Cardiff would cause are unimaginably horrific. And what if a lorry overturned, spilling its cargo of toxic waste into the road? Such risks should not and must not be taken with people's lives.

This year we have seen the suffering caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The virus is known to affect the respiratory tract, sometimes causing months and maybe even years (who knows?) of ill-health, and untold damage to lungs. Air pollution is well known to cause respiratory diseases and childhood cancers. To permit the building of an incinerator that would seriously imperil the health of the local population would be not only irresponsible, but culpably negligent.