A leading health official has recommended Natural Resources Wales “exercise caution” when considering whether to grant a planned waste processing plant a permit.
Dr Gillian Richardson, Executive Director of public health at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, wrote to NRW officials as part of the consultation over an application to site a waste plant at Nine Mile Point Industrial Estate in Cwmfelinfach.
Dr Richardson warned that the plant’s emissions could affect local residents’ health, citing a weather phenomenon known as temperature inversion as a potential risk – a reason also given by residents opposing the proposal.
Temperature inversion occurs when cold air is trapped by warm air above, thus restricting any clouds or haze from escaping an area, such as the Sirhowy Valley.
Dr Richardson added in her report that any development at the Nine Mile Point site could cause “significant short-term local air quality deterioration within an area of deprivation, including vulnerable populations”.
The plant, being developed by Hazrem Environmental Ltd, will process up to 100,000 tonnes of waste annually, and after an initial public consultation which saw NRW receive 700 letters of objection. The environmental body said it would consult further with Public Health Wales before reaching a decision.
Developers say emissions from the burning of natural gas used in the plant’s dryer will be released through an 18 metre-high stack, which will also eliminate odour emissions.
Islwyn AM Rhianon Passmore and Islwyn MP Chris Evans have previously spoken out against the plant.
Ms Passmore said: “The conclusions of the executive director of public health for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board are clear.
“The regulator simply cannot ignore the health threat posed to the local community by the proposed new facility at Nine Mile Point.”
Hazrem Environmental Ltd has said the initial air quality assessment provided to NRW was drawn up on a “worst case scenario” basis because the dryer’s specification was unavailable at the time of the permit application.
It now says that nitrogen dioxide emissions will be closer to 50mg/m3 rather than the 300mg/m3 used in the air quality assessment.