'Sawdust from plant ruining health of our street'
PEOPLE living near Avonmouth docks claim their health has been affected by sawdust from a wood chip processing plant based there.
The Evening Post reported earlier this week that the Stobart Biomass plant had been told to stop chipping the wood by the Environment Agency after complaints about the dust.
Residents say that since the dust first appeared in October last year – covering their gardens, cars, and homes – they have been blighted by colds, chest infections, sore throats and coughs.
They say the dust has caused the complaints, which they claim are worse and more widespread than usual winter colds.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Wednesday, May 22 2013
One resident reported that on a trip to Avonmouth Medical Centre, they had been told by a nurse that in the last three months she had seen more coughs, colds and chest infections than she usually did, even at this time of year.
The medical centre declined to comment when contacted by the Post.
The Stobart Biomass facility – which is part of the Eddie Stobart group of businesses – will have to introduce dust control measures if it wants to continue operating as normal after the Environment Agency decision.
The facility brings in waste timber and other plant material known as biomass, then turns it into wood chippings to be exported for use in generating electricity.
The Post spoke to residents in Poole Street, which is one of the roads affected by the clouds of dust blown over from the docks.
Terri Bowers, 39, works for the council but is on maternity leave looking after her seven-month-old daughter Caitlin.
She said: "I was advised to contact the Health Protection Agency because since October, both myself and my daughter have had over four sore throats and flu-type symptoms, that we just can't seem to get rid of.
"A nurse from the HPA was not able to say exactly what problems wood dust can cause to health as it was not in her remit but confirmed that exposure to wood dust over a period of time would certainly cause health problems.
"The problem seems to be not just from the wood being chipped on the dock, it is also caused by the stockpile awaiting to be shipped. As soon as there is nice weather and the slightest bit of breeze, we are rained upon with wood dust again.
"If it rains, the wood residue becomes soggy and resembles soggy Weetabix, and is a swine to get off. The dust is so bad that it has settled on the pavements and in the gutters.
Stephen Williams, 55, an events manager, is currently suffering from a bad chest infection.
"I first noticed the dust when I had my car valeted and I brought it home," he said. "The next morning it was covered in fine dust.
"Washing my car is not a big deal but what I am concerned about is the health hazards of this.
"I don't want the place shut down but it does need to be sorted out.
"This dust sticks – that's the trouble. The rain does not dislodge it. It's all over my garden and front of the house.
"I have not been very well for the last month – maybe the chest infection is nothing to do with the dust. I can't point the finger and say it is definitely that. But it seems too much of a coincidence."
Sandra Ware, 61, who is retired and lives in Poole Street, said she first noticed the dust in October last year.
"I like spending time in my garden, and one afternoon I went out and it looked like someone had shook a Hoover bag over the whole place," she said. "There was this fluffy brown dust everywhere – it was really bad.
"I have a bad chest anyway but this seems to have made it worse. You can just be out in the garden and dust just falls straight on top of you. I think they should be closed down."
Mavis Thomas, 85, who is retired, said she had noticed a cough and tight chest coming on suddenly around October last year.
"I was wracking my brains trying to work out what it was, because it seemed a bit more than just your usual winter ailments," she said. "It doesn't worry me too much because I am older anyway, but it would concern me more if I was younger.
"I don't want the place closed down, I don't want to deprive people of their jobs. But it's our health we are talking about, we can't just ignore it."
Barbara Steel, 65, lives down the road with her husband.
"I have had a terrible sore throat and cough," she said. "I put it down to the wood dust because I've been feeling this way since about November, and the dust started in October. My brother, who lives near here, has also had an awful cough.
"When I was in the chemist getting cough medicine I was talking to someone there who also had a cough and said lots of people round here she knows has similar complaints. I know it's winter, but it really seems like everyone is feeling this way and that is unusual."
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said the plant had been told to stop chipping wood because people living nearby had a problem with the dust. He said the Environment Agency had concerns over environmental issues.
The spokesman said: "The Environment Agency has withdrawn Stobart Biomass' exemption for chipping the wood, meaning that they can no longer chip wood there until we are satisfied that they have sorted out the problem with dust.
"They can still bring material to the site and export it."
The Evening Post contacted Stobart Biomass for a comment on the latest residents' complaints but no one was available to talk to us.
Earlier this week Stobart Group spokesman James Andrew said the company was "working closely" with the Environment Agency.