21 April 1995

UK faces formal EC complaint over waste fuel burning fears

By Liz Mason

EUROPEAN Commission officials are to go ahead with a formal complaint against the UK government over the burning of waste fuel at a Weardale cement plant.

The move has been welcomed by farmers and other local residents concerned about the safety of recycled liquid burning at the Blue Circle plant.

Durham farmer Dennis Craig, a member of the Weardale Action Group, said he feared emissions from the plant could contaminate grassland. "I dont want my stock poisoned," he said.

In the past few weeks Mr Craig, who farms a mile from the plants chimney, said he had seen "a cloud of dust hovering over the works". But he added that it would take a long dry spell and east winds before any pollutants threatened his farm.

NFU officials have asked MAFF to take background soil samples from local farms. But their request has been refused. NFU members are now considering MAFFs reassurances about monitoring before deciding whether to press the issue.

Mr Craig, who has a 26-cow dairy herd and sheep, said a complete set of samples should have been taken from farms before the plant began burning the waste.

Tests had apparently shown high lead levels on some farms on the east side of the chimney, he said. "We dont know what this is and whether it is coming from emissions over a period of years or just recently." He was particularly concerned that Blue Circle had not yet published full results from its first trial fuel burn in December.

Durham Euro MP, Stephen Hughes, presented the European Environment Commissioner, Ritt Bjerregaard, with a dossier of information on waste fuel burning at the plant. He said the commissioner was particularly concerned that Blue Circle had delayed sending test results from its trial burns to Her Majestys Inspectorate of Pollution.

In a letter to Mr Hughes, the commissioner said his officials confirmed the MEPs opinion that "this practice might raise considerable environmental problems which deserve to be examined". &#42