AIR POLLUTION AT HAFOD LANDFILL FIRE 14 TIMES ACCEPTABLE LEVELS

‘Close it down’ says Plaid MS

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales MS Llyr Gruffydd has revealed that air-pollution levels around the Hafod Landfill site were still 14 times the standard level two days after a fire at the site.


Mr Gruffydd said the details had come from air-quality monitoring carried out by Natural Resources Wales: The air-quality equipment that was deployed in Johnstown to measure pollution in the aftermath of the fire didn’t arrive until more than two days after the fire had started. Within an hour it was measuring pollution in the form of PM10 particulates of 702 μg/m3. Welsh Government guidelines state that any emissions over 50 μg/m3 are only permitted 35 times a year and that the annual average should not exceed 40 μg/m3. There has been a complete disregard for local people’s safety.

“Because we don’t have local testing equipment in the area, we don’t know how high the initial smoke pollution was in the first two days of the fire. However, it’s fair to expect that the first two days of intense smoke would also have breached that standard. Having a sustained period of pollution over a number of days deserved further investigation into the health effects on residents. This all happened during a heatwave, when it would have been very difficult to keep people indoors and with windows closed for days on end. 

“It confirms a widely held view in the local area that the Hafod landfill site should never have been placed so close to populated areas and that it is a hazard for local people.”

“It confirms a widely held view in the local area that the Hafod landfill site should never have been placed so close to populated areas and that it is a hazard for local people.”


The details have been revealed in a letter to Mr Gruffydd from Natural Resources Wales, which states:


Overnight, air monitoring data recorded elevated levels of particulate matter (PM) that were consistent with smoke from the fire and which supported the advice for people to stay inside and away from smoke affected areas.  These periods of elevated air pollution were intermittent and typically very short lived and would only have posed a low risk to the health of local people. The highest recorded concentration of particulate matter was between around 9.30pm and 11pm where the maximum 1 minute PM10 concentration was 702 μg/m3.  It is possible that this was linked to smoke from the fire although instrument error or another local source cannot be discounted.  During this period, people who were exposed to the smoke either by being outdoors or having doors or windows open may have experienced irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. However, this period of elevated air pollution was very short lived (less than 1.5 hours) and concentrations quickly dropped to below the air quality standard of 50 μg/m3.  The advice to shelter aimed to reduce exposure and any risk to health. 


NRW is carrying out a criminal investigation into any possible breach of the environmental permit for the Hafod Landfill site while the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service continues to investigate the cause of the fire itself. 

NRW is carrying out a criminal investigation into any possible breach of the environmental permit for the Hafod Landfill site while the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service continues to investigate the cause of the fire itself. 


Mr Gruffydd said: “The company that runs the site, Enovert, has confirmed to me that it doesn’t know what caused the fire. NRW doesn’t know what caused the fire and is investigating any breach of the permit. With that in mind, it seems strange that dumping has been restarted at the site without working out what the problem was – it’s irresponsible.”


Mr Gruffydd, who has challenged both the First Minister and Environment Minister on the matter, has now written again to NRW to ask that they suspend work at the site pending the investigation. He said people’s health and safety should come before the company’s desire to carry on working.


A petition calling for the landfill site to be closed down has been signed by more than 800 local people in the Johnstown and Ruabon area.

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