Wood dust operation under review

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

Major players concerned in the controversial compacted wood fibre operations at Methil Docks are due to meet soon to discuss the project.

Representatives from Fife Council’s environmental health and public protection department, recycling specialist SITA UK and Forth Ports, which owns the docks, are understood to be getting together on October 14 to talk over ‘best practice’ and how to overcome what’s regarded as the nuisance factor of the operation.

Car in Wellesley Road, Methil, coated with wood dust from the compacted wood fibre offloading operation at Methil Docks

Car in Wellesley Road, Methil, coated with wood dust from the compacted wood fibre offloading operation at Methil Docks

For over a year now, SITA UK has been shipping in loads of compressed wood fibre to Methil, which is then being unloaded on SITA’s behalf by Forth Ports and transported to RWE Inogy’s biomass plant in Markinch.

The aim of the project is to use wood as an alternative to fossil fuels – but residents in nearby streets have been bedevilled by clouds of wood dust from the operation being whipped up by the wind and blow across their properties.

A notice of nuisance was slapped on the scheme last year and an immediate clean-up ordered in South Grove, while earlier this year, Fife Council concluded it was a Statutory Nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, after monitoring the site, meeting the companies and carrying out dust sample analysis.

It’s understood the meeting will be discussing technical matters and possibly commercially sensitive information, and will not be open to the public.

Don Taylor, the Council’s public protection lead officer, said the meeting would keep dialogue going and ensure the right process was being followed along the legal route.

It was important to keep talks going with the main protagonists after a legal notice had been served, he added.

“We can discuss practice and see if there’s a way forward from their point of view,” said Mr Taylor.

Residents and boat club members in Methil have said they fear the dust could represent a health hazard or dagmage vessels but SITA and Forth Ports have both have denied it is unsafe.

Fife Council said after one recent analysis there was insufficient data to establsh the dust was detrimental to health.

A householder in Wellesley Road, Methil, said a vehicle at his property was covered recently with a deposit of the dust carried by the wind.

“It was like the car had grown a beard,” said the man, who preferred not to be named.

He added that environmental health representatives had recently been taking samples in the area, around a mile apart.

In an easterly wind and with supporting breezes, it appeared the dust was being carried considerably further than the streets immediately opposite the docks, such as South Grove.

The man said his main concern was any possible risk to health from breathing in the wood dust when it was floating about in the air.

He also thought the public was too often excluded from knowledge of such operations or some of the decisions relating to them, despite firm’s claims of liaising with the community.