Wood dust fears online

The wood fibre offloading operation at Methil Docks
The wood fibre offloading operation at Methil Docks

A boat club member in Levenouth has challenged the studies conducted at Methil Docks linked to controversial compacted wood fibre offloading operations.

Methil Boat Club member George Mann said he disagreed with Fife Council’s assertion that wood dust from the operation by Forth Ports and recycling specialist SITA UK was not a health hazard, even though it had been classed as a nuisance under environmental legislation.

Mr Mann said there was plenty of easily available material on the internet – which he had obtained – claiming wood dust and sawdust was a potential hazard to health, and that more attention should have been paid to these sources when carrying out the investigations.

Residents living across from the docks around the South Grove area of Methil have been plagued on and off for over a year by clouds of dust from the compressed wood, which blows and settles over their properties under certain wind conditions.

Householders have expressed concerns about possible health risks, while boat club members have raised the matter with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), also because of concerns about health, and over potential damage to their vessels by dust getting into the air vents.

SITA UK, which ships the wood in, and Forth Ports, which unloads it on SITA UK’s behalf before it is taken to RWE Innogy’s biomasss plant in Markinch, both maintain the dust is non-hazardous, with the aim of the project to use the wood as an alternative to fossil fuels.

To reduce the problems, as well as dampening the wood fibre before travel, they had carried out air quality checks and also transferred the cargo directly from ship to road transport, to cut down on movement of the wood fibre.

Mr Mann, an ex-joiner, said the airborne dust was a considerable nuisance .

He said SITA UK and Forth Ports were more concerned with the working environment for their operation than the wider effects it was having on the community.

Mr Mann, who has moved recently from East Wemyss to Glenrothes, also questioned the claim over direct transfer of the wood to lorries, with images from the site suggesting it was being stockpiled in sheds before transportation.

Public protection staff and environmental health workers from Fife Council met with SEPA, SITA UK and Forth Ports, monitored the site and carried out dust sample analysis before concluding it constituted a Statutory Nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

However, public protection lead officer Don Taylor added: “There was insufficient data to establish the dust was detrimental to health.”