Ten questions Grundon needs to answer to reassure Colnbrook
For all its efforts to buy its way into the hearts and minds of the local community Grundon has forgotten one essential point: if it wants to be trusted it needs to be open and transparent. Here we list ten questions Colnbrook needs answers to.
Air quality monitoring stations at the Energy from Waste facility at Colnbrook’s Lakeside Industrial Estate reported levels of coarse particulate matter, or PM10, at 985 µg/m3 for a period of over 8 hours on Thursday 5 September. While “hazardous” according to the WHO index, Grundon’s Danny Coulston has stated that the readings were faulty.
However, if pollution monitoring stations are systematically dispensing false information (or nothing at all) that’s not something simply to shrug off. It is a catastrophic failure of the company’s whole approach to engaging with and reassuring residents onto whom this facility (that has been, let’s not mince words, inflicted against their will) remains safe.
For Cllr Walsh in his role as Slough health supremo to have to demand answers as – to his credit – he has done, and for those answers to be so light on detail ignores the very real threat people feel from this unwanted neighbour on its northeasterly border.
We still need more answers from Grundon. It’s too easy to dismiss every spike as a faulty reading and, frankly, such an answer inevitably raises more questions.
Air in Colnbrook is, after all, the subject of two Air Quality Management Areas which should be foremost in the company’s mind as it seeks to continue to be allowed to emit particulate matter into the atmosphere. And as it loses its bid to build incinerators in Chieveley and Perth, it should take note that others around the country will be watching to see how it responds to the valid concerns of residents in Colnbrook.
So here is a list of ten questions we feel Grundon owes the answers to – and let’s hope Cllr Walsh and his team at SBC will keep the pressure on so we get them:
1. What actually happened on the 5th?
In layman’s terms, how can a snapped tape cause erroneous figures to be reported rather than nothing at all? Why should it increase rather than decrease the pollution score?
2. Who deleted the data following our report of the spike in readings?
Was this done with or without the Environment Agency’s knowledge and who approved it? Does Grundon have any access to, or ability to interfere with this data directly or indirectly?
3. Have all spikes since the plant opened in 2010 also been due to the same snapped tape?
If so, why has this problem not been fixed sooner? Why has the earlier data not been similarly deleted?
4. Did the tape also snap at the same time at the other monitoring stations across Slough?
If not, why was there also a residual spike at those other stations – i.e. beyond acceptable levels – on the 5th September?
5. What steps will Grundon directly take to restore trust and integrity to the figures?
On the basis that Grundon has both a commercial and moral obligation here to properly monitor its incineration operation how will it restore trust? Will you commit to stopping burning if there if monitoring fails in the future?
6. When will Colnbrook residents have the reassurance of 100% monitoring as they were told to expect?
Given as much as 25% of the data is missing for periods when the incinerator was operational how can the facility claim the plant is meeting target levels? Why is the monitoring station itself not monitored if it is so unreliable?
7. What steps will you take to ensure better communication with residents directly over air quality and operational status?
What assurances can you give the residents of Colnbrook and Poyle and the surrounding communities that future incidents relating to either the plant or monitoring stations will be better communicated?
8. What is the emergency procedure?
In the event of a real incident at the incinerator who would be notified and what would be done, if anything, to ensure those groups most at risk – the elderly, those with respiratory conditions, and local schoolchildren – stay indoors?
9. How many incidents have been reported to the Environment Agency?
What conditions prompt the involvement of the Environment Agency and how often has this happened since the plant opened in 2010?
10. Would you support a new upper limit alert?
Clearly the system of yearly and daily mean figures smooths spikes and could hide incidents that residents would want to know about. An occurrence of emissions at, say, 76 µg/m3 (High) even momentarily should trigger an alert and a consequent public explanation to the people of Colnbrook.
Grundon, Colnbrook awaits your responses.