Polish-owned Rank Recycling Scotland (RRS) has taken over the Dargavel energy-from-waste plant in Dumfries and is planning to apply for a permit to fire it up again. The plant was banned from operating after hundreds of toxic pollution breaches and a two-day blaze last July left up to 800 tonnes of partially-burnt and potentially stinking waste.
RRS acquired the assets of the company that used to run the plant, Scotgen (Dumfries), on the day it went into administration in October. Scotgen’s former project director, Lloyd Brotherton, is now project director for RRS, though the company has different owners.
Critics fear that allowing the new company to simply take over the incinerator from its defunct predecessor is an “abuse of process”. They are demanding that the new permit application be toughly scrutinised by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).
Sepa revoked Scotgen’s operating permit in August, but the company launched an appeal to overturn the move. The appeal, however, was withdrawn in February, after Sepa refused to transfer ownership of the permit to RRS.
Christina McKelvie, the Scottish National Party MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, is planning to raise concerns about the latest developments in the Scottish Parliament. “Sepa revoked the operating permit from the Scotgen waste plant at Dargavel for very sound and appropriate reasons, including failure to meet the pollution regulations and poor performance on site,” she said.
“For this company, Rank Recycling Scotland, to then apply for a new permit, having failed to recover the original one, sounds to me like an abuse of process. I am confident that Sepa will examine any such application very vigorously.”
The Dovesdale Action Campaign, formed to oppose plans by Scotgen to build a second waste incinerator near Stonehouse in South Lanarkshire, is “extremely worried”. It accused RRS of trying to “re-establish a failed technology which threatens both the environment and the residents surrounding the site”.
The campaign’s spokesman, John Young, added: “This form of technology has a proven record of failure and does not assist the Scottish government’s own targets to cut carbon emissions. It is time to bring a close to this plant and the threat posed to other communities across Scotland.”
RRS is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rank Progress, a property and development company based in Legnica in southwest Poland. It wants to operate the Dargavel plant to demonstrate how to recover energy from residual waste that can’t be recycled.
RRS confirmed that it was currently working on applying to Sepa for a permit to restart the plant. It will be submitted “after the appropriate consultations and a technical review have been completed” and will include a proposal to tap heat from the plant for a new “zero waste park”, the company said.
“We are fully committed to the Dargavel facility,” Jan Mroczka, president of Rank Progress and a director of RRS, told the Sunday Herald. “We know there were issues with the previous owners and the operation of the facility and we are very aware of the operating standard we must achieve and maintain.”
RRS has been paying for the removal and disposal of waste, as well as for a “deep clean” of the facility. It was grateful to staff members who were working hard to bring the plant up the standards required by Sepa, it said.
Sepa’s technical support manager, Ian Conroy, stressed that the agency was pursuing compliance with the clean-up provisions in its revocation notice “through the necessary regulatory and legislative channels”. He confirmed that Sepa had refused the request to transfer ownership of the operating permit to RRS “having considered the merits of the application”.
Conroy added: “RRS may apply in future for a new permit to operate the waste incineration plant at Dargavel and have been advised that Sepa would expect to see a robust demonstration that any recommissioned or proposed plant can comply with all legislative pollution control requirements.”