Dust and waste wood at a Fenland recycling centre are “a ticking time bomb” says MP who has warned of possible health risk

Waste recycling site/dust in Whittlesey

Waste recycling site/dust in Whittlesey - Credit: Archant

An MP described the possible health risks of clouds of dust from a wood recycling centre as “a ticking time bomb”.

Waste recycling site/dust in Whittlesey

Waste recycling site/dust in Whittlesey - Credit: Archant

A worker at nearby factory said: “You can see by looking at the huge pile of wood that there are plastics and other waste mixed up.

“Some of the wood is painted and could be old enough for the paint to contain lead. There is no telling what is in it.

He added: “We have contacted Fenland’s environmental health people, but so far we have not managed to get anyone to come and have a look at the problem.

“The Environment Agency want to issue a permit, which they say will give them greater powers, which is good news but it is taking time and all the while we are breathing in this dust.”

Waste recycling site/dust in Whittlesey

Waste recycling site/dust in Whittlesey - Credit: Archant

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NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay is urging Fenland District Council’s environmental health team to act over concerns about the dust blowing across the industrial estate off Benwick Road, Whittlesey.

He said: “I am told there are about 80 sites like this across the country where there is wood waste just sitting waiting to go up in flames. It is like a ticking time bomb.”

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Mr Barclay says the thick layer of dust thrown up by recycling centre, East Anglian Resources, covers work areas, cars and office space.

The Environment Agency, which is responsible for keeping a check on waste recycling sites, has been working with the company to submit a permit application, which would enable better regulation of the site.

At the moment it operates legally under an exemption certificate, which is issued and monitored by the Environment Agency. But a permit would give greater powers of control so the Environment Agency could take enforcement action if conditions are not met.

Dust emissions would have to be contained within the site and other conditions would also regulate the amount of waste wood stored.

A Fenland Council spokesman said: “All the partners in the Cambridge and Peterborough Local Resilience Forum are fully aware of the issues on this site.

“We are working closely together both to arrange for all the waste material to be cleared as soon as possible and to ensure that any potential problems with air quality are properly assessed.”

Mr Barclay said: “It is imperative that action is taken to monitor the air pollution to make sure the dust is safe.”

In a separate issue on the site the Environment Agency has already spent £180,000 clearing illegally dumped wood pulp waste from a warehouse, which was recently ravaged by fire.

The cause of the fire is being investigated but it is likely to have been caused by the wood material self-heating, like a compost heap, and igniting.

Two thirds of the material cleared from the warehouse has been removed but around 1,000 more tonnes remain on a piece of waste land awaiting to be cleared.

Material inside the warehouse has been spread out to prevent potential for further fires.

Negotiations are ongoing over who should pick up the bill.

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