Dust a nuisance, but not a hazard, says Council

Compacted wood fibre offloading at Methil Docks, involving SITA UK and Forth Ports
Compacted wood fibre offloading at Methil Docks, involving SITA UK and Forth Ports

Environmental experts at Fife Council are carefully watching the controversial wood shipping operation at Methil Docks to ensure the law is being followed.

Houses in and around the South Grove area, and boats berthed at Methil, have been bedevilled occasionally by wind-transported clouds of dust settling on their properties from the regular offloading of compressed wood fibre, by recycling specialist SITA UK and Forth Ports.

Residents have raised concerns about possible health hazards, but Council analysis so far has uncovered no risk.

Environmental protection bosses – who slapped a statutory nuisance notice on the operation last year – have been conducting studies and taking samples, and consulting with legal colleagues on how best to ensure compliance with the legislation.

Don Taylor, public protection lead officer, said the Council’s environmental protection team received complaints about the dust at the end of March.

An environmental health officer undertook an investigation to determine if it constituted a nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

“We made several visits to the docks and surrounding residential area, responding to the residents’ complaints and monitoring the unloading on to the dock site and removal of the wood chippings,” he said.

“A meeting then took place with SEPA, SITA and Forth Ports to discuss the complaint and the site continued to be monitored.

“Along with the observational visits, dust monitoring was undertaken and a sample of dust was collected and sent off for analysis.

“The investigation found the dust from the site constituted a Statutory Nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

“There was insufficient data to establish the dust was detrimental to health.”

Forth Ports and SITA UK say there are aware of residents’ concerns and direct feedback from householders is important.

As well as dampening the wood fibre before transportation, the companies have carried out an air quality monitoring analysis and changed some working procedures.

They moved the operation further away from houses and began transferring the cargo directly from ship to road transport, meaning less movement of the wood fibre.

Both firms have also maintained the dust is non-hazardous.