Sunday, February 19, 2006

Council "helpless" as Rugby air polluted

Rugby air is to continue to be polluted as Rugby Borough Council admit to lack of control, and "helplessness" over air quality issues:

Many people have asked us to explain what RBC are doing regarding the air quality issues in Rugby, so I give a brief account.

Firstly they had no monitors at all until 2003, with the one exception of a sole "TEOM" monitor which was located in a rather restricted place next to a building and tall tree at the Webb Ellis Road sports club for 2 years, in 1999 to 2000.

This monitor was paid for by Rugby Cement, RBC and the Environment Agency. The purpose was to "catch the plume" from the cement works, that is IF it ever came that way, and IF it actually fell at that point. They wanted to compare the "impact of the old plant" with the "impact from the new plant". In terms, of the "most unlikely and infrequent place" to catch the plume they deliberately chose that most "inappropriate" place! The wind blows from the north about 5% of the time, or less. Then you have to have the weather conditions that cause the plume to ground, which almost always NEVER are found with a north wind. This according to them showed that there was more plume grounding with the old plant than with the new, but the new plant only made about 400,000 tonnes that year, so the comparison was hadly worthwhile was it? What about the planned 2 million tonnes production? Also how much plume grounding is good for us?

Bowing to public pressure, and realising that RBC had not carried out its statutory duties to protect air quality and by implications also to protect human health, more monitoring was then carried out with the infamous "19 white elephant Turnkey particulate monitors" that you see on the lampposts, and the 4 TEOM monitors. They could not "unfortunately" and "ridiculously" compare the data from the new, and incorrectly named Web Ellis Road TEOM (New Street TEOM) with the 1999-2000 data as "some bright spark" at RBC had decided to re-locate the TEOM from where it had been, and to move it into a completely different place about 400 yards away out in the open on the side of a hill, at the top of New Street! "DOH my brain hurts!" Talk about mindless acts of vandalism!

Long running rows ensued about the validity of the monitoring data, the locations and the way the instruments were repeatedly "re-calibrated" apparently in order to get them to "read lower". This has lead to much confusion and suspicion about the validity of the data. The fact that the FULL data is not available to the public, who have paid about half a million quid for this monitoring exercise, and the fact that that data which is given out is portrayed in such a way that the public cannot understand it or use it, or compare it, speaks volumes! We were refused timely and immediate access to the data, and they have only provided it many months after it has been pored over and "validated" by the contractors. We were not given access to the data until months later until it had been "ratified", and requests for access have been turned down. The web site containing live data that we were promised, such as that which other Councils have provided, never materialised and instead a very costly and not-much-publicised "help line" was set up, and this was charged by the hour, to give information to any one who rang up, (some days later?) when it could and should have been available to all IMMEDIATELY at the flick of a switch - for virtually the same money.

When people rang up they were interrogated and data was kept about them, so it was a way of spying on who was asking what questions, and what "pollution incidents" that were looking into.

Not only that but also RBC have "put up their hands and surrendered" and have now admitted that they are NOT responsible for air quality and health in Rugby: they can apparently do NOTHING about the air quality in Rugby. WCC, as the Highways Authority, have apparently (all by themselves) caused the pollution - the AQMA (Air Quality Management Area) for nitrogen dioxide to be declared because of the their failure to address the Highways and Traffic issues. Mind you RBC are not "blameless" as they have given more and more planning permissions for industrial sites in the town which see huge amounts of heavy polluting lorries travelling into the residential areas.
And RBC say that, round the cement plant, Rugby Cement and the Environment Agency are the responsible bodies. So after all this expense, and effort to monitor the air, and so much expectation of improvement, the short answer from RBC is "Pollution is not our problem! Nothing can be done!" It is ash me they did not tell us this BEFORE we spent our money on the pointless monitors!

On May 9th 2005 Sustainable Rugby (Agenda 21) asked RBC this question: "Please explain what powers under statutory nuisance exist to control dust emissions from Rugby Cement?"

"The Council has virtually no powers of enforcement under any environmental legislation at the cement works: this includes the laws relating to statutory nuisance. Under Section 79 (10) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (as amended) the Council CANNOT take any action in respect of smoke, dust, steam, smell or other effluvia, accumulations or deposits, and noise from any part of the installation which is permitted under the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999. This is controlled by the Environment Agency and it is that Agency that is charged with the regulation, via the permit, to control activities at Rugby Cement.

Councillors Mrs Wyatt raised this issue in question pursuant to Council on 15th December 2004. The response to this questions was: (5) The Council has limited responsibility regarding statutory nuisance on the cement works site, the quarry or than landfill site, as statutory nuisance is superseded by other legislation enforced by other authorities. The Council is fully aware of its responsibility for statutory nuisance enforcement which it has been enforcing in the Borough for many decades under the current and previous legislation. Statutory nuisance is not relevant to the report to Defra.

This question has now been put to officers of the Council over the last few months in a variety of guises ranging from the above, direct correspondence from two individuals and most recently at the Rugby Cement Community Forum at which your group is represented formally and informally by members acting in other capacities. I produced a report to that forum which detailed the legislation that removed ALL permitted processes in England and Wales (not just Rugby Cement) from other environmental regimes. In case your representatives are unable to feedback on this issue I have attached that report for your information.

I wish to state that I consider this question potentially repetitious and possibly vexatious. RBC Environmental Health Office."

So you see that the EA, RBC and WCC are all in this pot together, along with the newly created Defra (2001), and that they are all playing "pass the parcel" with the Rugby Cement problem, air quality and health issues. They continue to pass the buck, each one making out they are "not responsible" and by this totally unprofessional approach and this complete lack of joined-up thinking we have arrived at this intolerable situation.

What was and IS still required is a FULL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT! It is this that RIP, and Councillor Mrs Wyatt, (apparently the ONLY Rugby Borough Councillor out of the total of 48 who cares to help Rugby people, and who understands the Environmental Legislation), have been repeatedly asking for. It was recently her further question to the full Council about this that caused "misinformation" to be given out by the leader of the Council, as he read out some "rubbish/misinformation" that had been produced by the Director of RBC EHO. They will do anything not to reveal the truth, including insulting any Councillor who persists in the quest for access to information. When Mrs Wyatt queried the truthfulness/provision of this
information she was told in no uncertain terms to sit down and shut up. The public of Rugby deserve better treatment and to hear the truth, and not to be fed a diet of untruths and misinformation! What is our Council doing? Who can hold them to account?

The problem is that WCC planners, who advise Councillors, and their legal team who advise them, and RBC officers who advise the RBC councillors, are not trained enough and up to date on the Legislation to understand what an EIA is. They appear to think it is some sort of half-hearted Environmental Statement put in by the applicant when applying for a planning permission. They do not appear to know what elements comprise a full EIA, nor to recognise insufficiencies and inaccuracies in these Environmental Statements when submitted. They are determined, almost wilfully, to turn a blind eye
to the inaccuracies and misinformation even when these are pointed out to them by the public, planning consultants and lawyers. You can see prime example on the WCC web site at the moment in the form of the Cemex application for the bag filters. They have called it Environmental Impact Assessment, and Statement and various other names, but in any terms it is INSUFFICIENT and INACCURATE. But, even though RIP and lawyers informed WCC that what they were doing was wrong, and was based on incomplete and inaccurate information in the application, the officers still "persuaded/advised" the WCC Councillors on the planning committee to vote through this application on 22nd December 2005. There were lots of obvious gaps in the application - the basic form had not even been filled in correctly. There can be no excuse for the officers to have accepted a partially completed application form. What pressure was being applied to them that they couldn't even carry out the basic function of seeing that the application was complete or correct? Even this simple function was beyond them, and how much more so then the even more taxing and difficult question of the inadequacies, inaccuracies and implications of the Environmental Statement? Who was applying what pressure to them? Is the course now set for a Judicial review against Warwickshire County Council, or how else can Rugby people obtain Justice?

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