Murphy's Law – and incinerator malfunctions

Pro-incinerator people say that incineration is safe and there's nothing to worry about. History suggests that they may be wrong.


Murphy's Law (also known as Sod's Law) in essence is: if anything can go wrong it will.

Seveso, Chernobyl and Bhopal being extreme examples of what can happen when people get things wrong (the 1976 Seveso disaster being of particular relevance for people wanting to know about the toxic nature of Dioxins).


Problems with incinerators

There are plenty of news items on incinerators, these are just a few – the majority being reported on BBC Online.

2001, protestors chained themselves to railings at the Bernard Road incinerator, Sheffield – identified as the worst incinerator in England with 156 breaches over a two-year period.

2002 Newcastle Council fined £25,000 after toxic ash fell across over 40 city allotments (the Byker incinerator was later demolished).

The Carntyne cattle incinerator in Glasgow, opened in 1998, was ordered to be closed four times to update equipment to meet licensing standards. Residents also complained that blood from carcasses being delivered to the plant ran down the street. An inquiry in 2003 eventually concluded it was built in an inappropriate location.

In 2005, the operator of Crymlyn Burrows incinerator and recycling plant at Neath was fined £4,000 (with £4,000) costs for breaching operating conditions. Following a fire in 2003 the facility was upgraded but residents still complained about the smell.

In 2006, operators of the Eastcroft incinerator were issued with a written warning from the Environment Agency after three carbon monoxide (fatal in large concentrations) breaches within a week. A residents' group observed that the emissions of only six chemicals were being monitored so they had no idea what else had been released.

In 2007, a spokesman for the London Mayor said that the type of incinerator proposed for Belvedere to take London waste "in fact emit 33 per cent more carbon dioxide than gas fired power stations".

Also in 2007, the Allington incinerator in Maidstone had to be closed due to faulty linings. The operators had to apologise to residents for the smell that 4,700 tonnes of rubbish that built up at the site gave off.

2009 one of the turbines in the Edmonton incinerator (London EcoPark) overheated and exploded. Residents reported seeing debris falling from the chimney after the blast.

It is also not clear what sort of regulatory / monitoring regime will be in place for an incinerator in Hatfield. There have been suggestions that the commercial company (Veolia) running the incinerator will carry out the checks (again frequency and what is being checked is not clear). Given that the company would be liable for a fine or other action – if they report themselves – does call into question the accuracy and reliability of any reports.


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