‘Rising anxiety, fear, and panic’ over Mossmorran flaring says politician

Unscheduled flaring at Fife Ethelyne Plant, Mossmorran (Pic: David Wardle)
Unscheduled flaring at Fife Ethelyne Plant, Mossmorran (Pic: David Wardle)

A call is being made for an independent investigation into Mossmorran – with a focus on the health, social and environmental impacts from its operations.

It comes from Councillor Darren Watt who says SEPA, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, doesn’t have the resources to do it.

The ethylene plant hit the headlines again last weekend when a process failure triggered six days of unscheduled flaring which saw thick black smoke across Fife’s skyline during the Bank Holiday weekend.

Over 600 complaints were made to SEPA’s pollution hotline – the biggest response yet from the community.

Now Cllr Watt, Conservative (Cowdenbeath) will table his motion at the full meeting of Fife Council this coming week.

He said: “I am seeing rising anxiety, fear, panic and anger in the local communities as this unprecedented emergency flaring is continuing.

“People fear they are not being told the full story by the site operators or regulatory agencies, and SEPA has lost a lot of trust because of its previous meaningless assurances and doing too little, too late.

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“That’s why I am calling for an independent expert investigation into the health, social and environmental impacts from Mossmorran’s operations. SEPA simply hasn’t got the resources to do this, and such a study needs real political will behind it.“

Cllr Watt added: “If the operators and authorities genuinely believe the plant has no harmful impacts on the lives of local residents, then there is absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t support a fully independent expert investigation.

“The residents deserve peace of mind – and very little else is going to persuade people that they have nothing to fear.”

Meanwhile, Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, underlined the depth of anger in the community directed at the plant operators, Exxonmobil.

She said they were “sick to the back teeth living with noise, vibration and appalling levels of light pollution at night.”

Ms Laird added: “Who could blame them? No-one should have to suffer this misery on such a regular basis.”
She said the key question is why flaring is happening regularly – and what steps are being taken to prevent it happening again?

The MP continued: “The results of a BAT (Best Available Techniques) review, which has taken months to produce, is due out at the end of April.

“This looks at the plant’s system in its entirety and it is in SEPA’s power to take action on the report’s findings and alter Mossmorran’s permit.

“The plant is already on a final written warning and, given these recent events, what is SEPA prepared to do now?

“Mossmorran was designed in the ‘80s but our communities deserve to know if the plant, which sits right on our doorsteps, is fit-for-purpose for the 21st century. Environmental standards have moved on but has this plant implemented best practice when making investments to make sure it did as well?

“If it isn’t fit-for-purpose, what will it take to make sure that it is?

“That’s the question I’m asking, and will continue to ask, until I’m satisfied this situation is resolved.”