Viridor workers hospitalised after pollution spill

A worker at one of Viridor’s energy-from-waste (EfW) plants was taken to Warrington Hospital yesterday (19 March), with 17 others ‘self-presenting’ at accident and emergency (A&E), following a spillage of air pollution control residue at Runcorn EfW plant.

At approximately 10.45am yesterday, dust particles of hydrated lime, an odourless white powder used as part of the air pollution control process, blew out of the plant and onto workers’ clothing. The lime is said to be an irritant to eyes and skin.

An ambulance attended the scene to take one worker, who was said to have an ‘underlying health condition’, to Warrington Hospital as a precaution. Around 17 other workers also presented themselves to Warrington A&E for treatment. However, the majority of these workers have already returned to the site.

A hospital spokesman said that there had been no ‘major injuries’ and that ‘any injuries appear[ed] to be relatively minor’.

The spillage occurred during the current commissioning phase of the plant by Keppel Seghers, the Managing Contractor on the site. It has reportedly been contained and affected ‘a very small localised area of the site’, with Viridor clarifying that the spill does not involve the neighbouring facility run by chemical company INEOS.

A spokesman for Cheshire Police said: “At 1pm [yesterday] police received reports of an incident at Keppel Seghers.

“While carrying out work on the site a number of workmen [came] into contact with a substance, which caused irritation to the eyes and respiratory problems.

“A number of people were taken to Warrington Hospital in works vehicles… The circumstances surrounding the incident are currently being explored and enquiries are continuing.”

All other contractors are continuing to work on site whilst the investigation is conducted.

Runcorn incinerator details

The Runcorn combined heat and power (CHP) facility has been running in its first commissioning stage since January 2014, and, once completed (scheduled for 2015), is expected to process up to 850,000 tonnes of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) per year into 70 megawatts (MW) of electricity.

Further, the facility will produce ‘up to’ 51 MW of heat, to power INEOS ChlorVinyls’s neighbouring chlorine and PVC manufacturing site.

The RDF will reportedly be produced from non-recyclable wastes arising from Greater Manchester households and local business contracts.

It is estimated that the facility will bring in a total of £452 million in investment in Runcorn, creating around 80 permanent jobs within the facility and over 1,100 during construction.

The development is being delivered by a joint venture comprising Viridor, INEOS ChlorVinyls and John Laing, with funding from a combination of public and private finance. The facility will be operated by Viridor and will reportedly be ‘among the largest… [EfW plants] in Europe’.

‘Scandalous’ to allow these plants to pollute the air we breathe

There have already been concerns expressed about the level of pollution the facility will cause, with the ‘Breathe Clean Air Group’ (BCAG) protesting against the plant since construction began in 2010.

BCAG Chair Pete Kilvert has previously said: "I feel sorry for the people of Runcorn who will suffer from air pollution and the constant fumes from HGV thundering through their town to feed this monster. Also the people of Trafford, Salford and Manchester will be in the fall-out zone as emissions from this huge plant will be carried by the prevailing wind along the Mersey and Ship Canal Corridor.

“It is scandalous that the government allows these plants to pollute the air we breathe, at a time when the European Commission is prosecuting the UK for breaches of Safety regulations concerning air pollution."

Read more about Viridor’s EfW plant in Runcorn.