As air pollution today reaches ‘Very High’ levels we ask: does anybody care about Colnbrook’s bad air?

With air pollution at Colnbrook Lakeside today at ‘Very High’, and Colnbrook’s air quality worse than it was six months ago, we ask two pertinent questions: Can the figures be relied on yet? And is policing of air quality taking a backseat to photo-ops and cash for community projects? 

Local incinerator operator Grundon continues to contribute significantly to community projects but has failed to provide proper explanations of air quality blips at its site.

Local incinerator operator Grundon contribute significantly to community projects and its PR machine is permanently in overdrive – but it has failed to provide proper explanations of air quality blips at its site.

Colnbrook’s air quality has worsened over the last six months according to data reported on Slough’s Air Quality Monitoring portal.  Today, however, the portal is reporting that Colnbrook’s air pollution is, again, ‘Very High’.

Regular visitors will have been expecting it since rogue poster ‘M. Mouse’ brought air pollution back into the spotlight last Tuesday but with air quality at Colnbrook Lakeside currently at its worst possible level a review of air quality stats for the past six months seems timely … and the situation doesn’t look good.

M. Mouse (a.k.a. ‘Truthloader’, ‘anonymous2’, ‘Lukeskywalker1975’) suggested Colnbrook residents were “basket cases” for their concern at last September’s “blip” in pollution figures at Colnbrook Lakeside 2 monitoring station.

Grundon dismissed that blip as faulty data due to a snapped tape, insisting at the time that air quality at the incinerator was actually “excellent” during the alleged incident.  That contradicted the findings from Slough Borough Council.

Today air quality at Colnbrook Lakeside Osiris 2 monitoring station is once again reporting ‘Very High’ – a level that should see a warning to the general population, and those with heart or lung problems advised to reduce activity.

The warning on the Air Quality monitoring portal at 1pm today.

The warning on the Air Quality monitoring portal at 1pm today.

Today’s spike in measurements of PM10 particulate matter is not isolated.  After we reported the unprecedented levels recorded on 5 September, further extremes were again seen towards the end of that month and have again been seen in February and March.

Faulty readings or really bad air?  It’s too early to say.

Colnbrook’s Cllr James Walsh, Slough Borough Council’s cabinet member for health demanded in September that the Council be kept “better informed about this kind of unusual activity in future so that we can all get a better understanding of what’s going on a lot sooner”.  He also called on the company to learn lessons, particularly with regard to the way it communicates with residents.

Colnbrook Views called for a new upper limit alert for residents, particularly those in vulnerable groups.

Neither has happened; residents are still being kept in the dark.  ‘M. Mouse’ may be right: it could be another false alarm with no need for concern – and, after all, the Parish Council insists air quality standards required by law are observed as a matter of course.

But as with the recent flooding, today’s incident highlights Colnbrook’s lack of preparedness for emergency situations.  After the flooding village groups began discussing how community networks could be used to alert and coordinate assistance. Today shows those steps can’t come soon enough.

Regardless of whether today’s ‘incident’ is real or not, there has clearly no improvement in the quality of the data reported publicly and it is quite apparent that, still, nobody is monitoring the figures reported.  Some of the data still hasn’t been ratified after two years, while nearly half the data is missing from one monitoring station.

But who cares?  There are big bucks to be had for going easy on the big polluters.  Is anybody surprised that the transparency and openness that we might demand as residents come a poor second?

At the May 2012 Parish AGM vice-chair Ray Angell insisted: “we will take money from anyone for good causes … you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

Well, Councillor Angell, maybe sometimes you should?

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