The plans to dump hazardous waste under Billingham in the town’s anhydrite mine are now coming under very specific scrutiny by the Environment Agency which is concerned about a potential unacceptable impact on ground water in the area.
And now Alex Cunningham MP for Stockton North (which includes Billingham) has said it is time for the firm responsible for the idea to cooperate more openly and come clean on what their proposal could actually mean.
Alex asked the Environment Agency for a briefing on their position on the proposals and as a result has learnt that once the dumping was complete, the water pumps would be turned off, leaving the mine to flood and raising major environment issues.
NPL Waste Management Ltd have submitted a planning application to Stockton Borough Council to dump air pollution control residues (APCR), or fly ash, in the disused mine – and the Environment Agency is being consulted on whether the dump would be safe or pose a risk to the environment either through groundwater or other ways. The Agency is also responsible for granting an Environmental Permit for any such development.
“I’ve been told that the potential impact on the environment is very complex and there are a number of issues that need to be addressed. That includes how the waste may react with the sulphate rich mine water, how likely it is the ash could leak into the flooded mine and surrounding water courses and the general stability of the mine in relation to flooding and the degradation of the waste,” said Alex.
“I do not believe that the Environment Agency can possibly advise the local authority until all the necessary studies to address the issues they have raised have been carried out and that they are entirely satisfied there is no danger to the environment.”
NPL have made a number of statements about their proposals but it remains unclear as to how they would deal with the waste and ensure it posed no risk to the environment.
“It is time for NPL to outline to the public exactly what they propose to do, how the waste would be treated and how they guarantee that there would be no danger to the water courses in the longer term once they had disappeared and the mine flooded,” said Alex.
“Thousands of people throughout Billingham have signed petitions opposed to this dumping plan – a clear illustration of their anxiety over the whole matter. It’s clear from the briefing I’ve had that they have plenty to be anxious about.”