Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by M V Horner (HSE 19)

  The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (Section 3, para 1) has the requirements to protect neighbouring residents from the dangers imposed by workplaces. HSE has made use of that clause in the recent case of the British Museum and the air conditioning system, and the possibility of passing residents being exposed to legionnaires disease. That case proved that it was not necessary for harm to be experienced, only that such harm was possible. This was an excellent illustration of what the HSE can achieve.


  However, as the situation in Clitheroe proves, HSE does not apply the law uniformly. I suggest that the Select Committee ensures that the Health and Safety Executive is freed from the shackles apparently imposed by the British Government, and that it be allowed to enforce the 1974 Act to protect the population, and ultimately save money by reducing the health costs on the NHS. The cost to the NHS is at present not evaluated against the profits to industry. It appears that Government policy, such as the desire to turn cement kilns into profitable toxic wast disposal sites, requires that HSE neglects its duty, both as a Statutory Consultee stage, and later at the enforcement stage.


  The beneficiaries of this neglect are the cement companies themselves plus the industrial processors who continue to produce toxic chemical waste and avoid the expense of cleaning up their process etc. From recent experience it also appears likely that certain politicians can also benefit financially. I was shocked when I read that the Marchioness pleasure cruiser was sunk by a bargh owned by Ready Mix Concrete, and that Ready Mix Concrete sponsored the Conservative Party at the time, and had close links with the Prime Minister and her husband. I could not help but ponder whether close policital ties are the cause of our continuing plight. Ready Mix Concrete was suggested as a possible buyer of Scancem, owners of Castle Cement. There is still speculation that German owned Heidelberger Zement, who bought Scancem, will split up their acquisition, and sell off the UK part —Castle Cement—to Ready Mix Concrete.


  Only months before Scancem was sold, it bought CMR, the Sussex based Secondary Liquid Fuel (SLF) supplier, which is already supplying Castle Cement at Ketton, and formed its own ready-made in-house SLF mixing and supply company—SEAR. What goes into the mix of chemical wastes for Castle Cement is now no longer in the hands of an independent supplier. German wastes can now be delivered directly from Germany by road tanker straight to Clitheroe. The Variation given to Castle Cement, if unaltered from that at the proposed stage, on which HSE was consulted, requires only that the Transfrontier Frontier shipment Notes are checked, before unloading. Unbelievably, it is not necessary for any toxic wastes imported directly to Castle Cement at Clitheroe to be tested for PCB's or dioxins anywhere after arrival in this country. In fact, it will be legal to import PCB's, and any mix of the most toxic wastes from anywhere in the world direct to Clitheroe. At Clitheroe only tests for sulphur, chlorine (and iodine, bromine, fluorine), and heavy metals content and calorific value are required by law. With this permission, it is unlikely that a multinational company is going to relinquish its licence without huge pressure. The same situation is not authorised anywhere else in the whole of Europe, except at one kiln in Belgium, but even that is said to meet the emission limits of the EC HW Incineration Directive, which Castle Cement most certainly cannot in the existing two kilns, nor indeed in the third kiln, kiln 7. Kiln 7, illogically, was recently given permission to burn hazardous waste on a trial basis.


  The second Inquiry into the Impact of Cement Manufacture, led to an assurance that no more kilns would be authorised to trial burn hazardous wastes/SLF until the new SLF protocol was finalised. Again the Environment Agency has made an exception in the case of Clitheroe. The new SLF protocol was released shortly AFTER the EA's decision to allow the trial in kiln 7 to go ahead.

  The new SLF protocol requires that a kiln must:

    —  be able to operate within its existing authorisation BEFORE it is given permission to trial. Again Clitheroe residents are cheated. These conditions are not able to be met at Clitheroe. Independent monitoring carried out on behalf of the Environment Agency in October 1998, showed that kiln 7 emitted heavy metals far in excess of its limits, even when burning only coal. The chromium level on its own was one and a half times over the combined limit for all the heavy metals. The combined emissions were over twice the metals limit. An application to increase metal inputs should have been refused outright. The EA received this monitoring report in February 1999, long before the end of the extended deadline for objections. However, the EA held on to these results until after the public consultation was closed..WHY?

    —  have adequate dispersion. Castle Cement appealed against the very emission limits it said the scrubber would achieve from April 1998. This appeal was going on during the whole time that the application to burn waste etc was being considered—unknown to most residents . . . and possibly HSE? Strangely the site inspector has written that poor dispersion has not been a problem since 1994, when the chimney was highered!!!

  How does the HSE view this claim in view of the NPL scientists suffering health effects in 1995, and all the evidence previously reviewed by the Environment Select Committee? What was the purpose of the scrubber, when the EA has caved in to Castle Cement's appeal, allowing any number of periods of up to 4 hours in a day, without the scrubber, without any need for notification to the EA?

  Who decided that Castle Cement should not be prosecuted, and that the breaches be kept secret? The independent October 1998 Report showed that all three kilns were in serious breach of their emission limits. While kiln 7 the subject of the application to burn SLF, etc was in serious breach of its heavy metal limits on coal alone, particulate and sulphur dioxide emissions were exceeded on the two kilns already burning "SLF".

  Why did the EA not throw out this application for kiln 7 in its entirety at this stage, instead of keeping this monitoring secret? Was the HSE in on the secret? Why did HSE not prosecute Castle Cement on each account, and stop toxic waste incineration immediately in kilns 5 and 6?

  Why did HSE not stop kiln 6 from operating at all, when it failed to meet its sulphur dioxide limit at any time in the 39 hours that monitoring took place? The UK Air Quality Strategy admits that sulphur dioxide can cause health effects "in minutes, if not seconds."

  Why does the EA hold authority over the HSE, relying only on "persistent haze and odour". Hundreds of complaints have been made by residents. When indpendent evidence was provided in the October 1998 monitoring, why was HSE not allowed to prosecute under the Health and Safety At Work Act Section 3 (1), as they did in the British Museum case? Compare kiln 6 emissions of sulphur dioxide to those in the Haz Waste Incineration Directive. The HWID limits are based to protect human health. Castle Cement cause a breach of our Human Rights under Article 8 of the EC Human Rights Convention, as well as a clear breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

  Who has put the handcuffs and blindfold on HSE, and taped up its mouth in the North West?

  Is it directed from the top?

  Or is it local corruption?


  I enclose a copy of a letter[1] which I sent to Mr Davies, Head of the HSC in 1997. Nothing has improved since then—in fact things are far worse. HSE has failed to learn from the wealth of scientific evidence from America and elsewhere about the predictable health effects from fine particulates and heavy metals when hazardous wastes are burnt. Or as seems more likely, HSE has been instructed to keep quiet. My family live on an isolated hill farm 200 feet above the top of the stacks at Castle Cement. The fumes have caused all sorts of health problems—so much that our GP advised us to move out of our home when the wind comes from the cement works. Three independent consultants have advised us to avoid exposure to the fumes from Castle Cement. Castle Cement's own Response to Condition 8.1 in April 1996 identified the worst polluted place was exposed to over four times the safe health limit—and it is exactly the site of our farm!—at the top of the hill, with our house just over the summit, 200 feet above the top of the stacks. We now commute daily between our farm and a second home, depending on the wind direction each day, and each night.

  How can the HSE be doing its job???

September 1999

1    Ev. not printed. Available for Inspection at the House of Lords Record Office. Back

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Prepared 26 October 1999