20 Mar 2013

I’m taking residents fears that recycling plant is a ticking time bomb to First Minister

Worried residents and community activists in Johnstone have told me they fear a recycling plant which was torched deliberately is still a ticking time bomb as more waste in being stockpiled.

And they are worried the people of the town are still being put at risk with the potential for another environmental disaster right on their doorstep.

George Kennedy, secretary of Johnstone Community Council and a retired firefighter wants the First Minister to step back into the investigation surrounding the fire at the plant in Floors Street, Johnstone.

In a hard-hitting letter which he sent to me to present to Alex Salmond Mr Kennedy asks if SEPA have acted properly since the ferocious fire broke out at the plant. He also questions if they attempted to analyse the fallout from the fire and if not why not and lists a number of other concerns raised by the people of the town.

I know local residents remain concerned about the potential for another hazardous fire, particularly since more waste is now being stockpiled on the site. I appreciated Derek Mackay, Minister for Local Government Planning coming along to a meeting which I convened to discuss this serious fire in Johnstone. I know that Derek is aware of the concerns raised and will consider whether legislation needs to be reviewed. However, I have asked for a response to each of the points Mr Kennedy raises. While, as a former senior firefighter  he speaks from a position of knowledge and experience, his concerns are shared by the community I represent and these need to be addressed.”

In his letter Mr Kennedy writes: “I wish that Alex Salmond be made aware of the ticking time bomb that is W.R.C ‘s next fire in waiting. In the relatively short time since the fire, W.R.C. has managed to stockpile once more a similar, or even greater amount of flammable materials which at any moment can become another environmental disaster, with possible even more far reaching consequences than the one this town suffered recently.

“Whilst I am aware of the questions raised on our behalf in and of the First Minister’s instructions to have Government Officers investigate this matter, I am also aware that nothing has diminished the risk to our town from this plant.

“I respectfully suggest that as long as this situation continues the potential for a further serious environmental disaster is in the short term extremely likely. The big difference this time is that if a further fire occurs then The Scottish Government knows of the previous warning and now this current warning and will have then failed to prevent a further fire.
I would like Government to question the actions of S.E.P.A and Strathclyde Fire Brigade both of whom I warned of the extreme likely hood of the January fire happening and clarify why they were unable to prevent it occurring.

“The warning was given to them in February 2011, ( I have copies of the correspondence ) At that time I detailed very accurately what would happen and that is exactly what did happen.
Did S.F.B. act properly within their powers at that time and if so did they act properly in the interim two years from the warning until the fire, through follow up inspections, liaison between authorities, liaison between fire safety and operational officers, or were their hands tied due to a lack of legislative powers?

Have W.R.C. carried out a proper work place risk assessment and has S.F.B. had sight of these records?

Did S.E.P.A. at any time since my warning in Feb. 2011 visit the site or was their exemption to W.R.C. requiring a license and continuing to operate without a license merely a paper exercise relying on this company’s word that they would not exceed storage or output amounts.

Have S.E.P.A. acted properly since the fire e.g. estimated 1500 tonnes of toxic waste burned and spread as fumes and particles across Johnstone and the surrounding villages and farmland.
Did they attempt to analyse the fallout from the fire? The fire service carried out a local analysis for fire fighters safety at the fire but did S.E.P.A. carry out any analysis at all, and if not why not?

S.E.P.A. stated at the recent meeting held in Renfrewshire House that they had looked the day after the fire at the streams nearby to assess the effect of run of pollutants from fire fighting operations but did no analysis.

I believe that the fire damaged bales and residue from the fire remain in the W.R.C. yard and continue to leech into our local water streams have S.E.P.A. assessed this risk?

To conclude, the knowledge of this risk now held by the Scottish Government in my opinion places ownership and responsibility fairly and squarely with the Scottish Government.
They must now, immediately and urgently remove this risk using existing legislation or use emergency powers or emergency legislation to prevent another environmental disaster befalling this town.”