“Communities located near incinerators have long lamented that they bear the brunt of its adverse impacts on air quality.”

That’s according to the Guardian newspaper, in an article about a waste incinerator in Detroit, which has recently been shut down. Just before the plant was closed, a press release from the environmental advocacy group Environment Michigan quoted Detroit resident Natalee Goto:

“Living near the incinerator, we hear noises and smell odors all the time.”

Communities can be affected by incinerators in various different ways, everything from an increase in stress, to unpleasant odours, to increased traffic noise.

Plans for a waste incinerator in Portland Port have already prompted the MP for South Dorset, Richard Drax, to say that he’s “concerned about the increased traffic through Wyke Regis.”

A study on road noise prepared by the Danish technological service company FORCE Technology, states that “Road noise is the absolute biggest source of noise nuisance.”

“noise nuisances increase with noise levels, and with prolonged exposure to noise, stress symptoms can develop into diseases and ultimately result in premature death.”

The study describes traffic noise as “a slow killer”. According to an article in the Journal of Public Health:

“Background noise may cause stress and sleep disturbance”

So it’s no wonder, as the National Geographic puts it:

“No one wants to live near a plant that may host hundreds of rubbish-filled trucks a day.”

The noise from the working of the incinterators themselves is also a problem. A waste-to-energy incinerator in Derby has prompted locals to complain about “smells, noises and toxic fumes”, with one resident reporting:

“The noise is like a humming sound, it just cuts through everything.”

In 2017, The Liverpool Echo carried at two-part story about what it’s like living near an energy-to-waste plant in Runcorn: ‘In the shadow of the UK’s biggest incinerator’. According to the reporter, Oliver Clay:

Near the entrance to the site on Picow Farm Road, a distinct sweating week-old cheese smell hung in the air, something the company denies is a problem…

Runcorn-based lawyer, Doug Fraser, a partner the firm Silverman Livermore, was hired to represent “153 households whose occupants allege their quality of life has been blighted by odours, noise, steam, smoke and dust connected to the function of the plant.” Mr Fraser told the Liverpool Echo:

“At the planning stage, Ineos said there wouldn’t be any undue emissions such as smoke and steam and dust yet there’s masses of evidence there. [Residents] can go for days with no problem then all of a sudden there’s a rotting smell of rotting vegetation.”

Of course, there are plenty of emissions from waste burners that aren’t visible, or have an unpleasant odour, but still have an effect on people living nearby. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, based in Annapolis in Maryland, commissioned a report in 2017 on a waste incinerator in Baltimore, which found:

“living near the incinerator in Baltimore is similar to living with a smoker. Fine particles from the smokestack’s emissions also fall beyond the city, causing an estimated $55 million annually in health problems.”

The 2016 World Energy Resources report from the World Energy Council, a UN-accredited global energy body founded in 1923, says that the safety of a Waste-to-Energy (WtE) plant can be jeopardised “if it is located too close to urban/residential area and in unfavourable weather conditions”. The report states:

WtE technologies, in particular incineration, produce pollution and carry potential health safety risks. There is extensive literature comprising numerous studies that investigated several aspects of the linkage between the discharged pollutants from wasteincinerators and health conditions such as cancer. 

And according to Kirstie Pecci, a Senior Fellow at the US advocacy group, the Conservation Law Foundation:

Incinerators produce both ash that is deposited in landfills and ultra-fine particulate matter that enters the air after escaping pollution control technology. Incinerators emit toxins such as VOCs, heavy metals, dioxins, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, mercury, carbon dioxide, and furans into the air.

No wonder that for people living near incinerators, this can be a cause of stress. According to the study Waste Incineration and Public Health, by the US National Research Council published in 2000:

“People in the surrounding area may be psychologically affected by the prospect or reality of an incineration facility in their midst. […] Concerns about adverse health effects on oneself or one’s children, parents, spouse, and so on, as well as fear of adverse economic effects, can contribute to stress or depression, which in turn can produce physical symptoms, such as headaches and sleeplessness…”

One way for concerned communities to express their worries about incinerator projects is to lobby their MP. People living near the proposed ‘Lea Bank Energy Park’ have done just that — the MP for Hitchen and Harpenden, Bim Afolami, told Luton Today:

“Many residents in our constituency have expressed their deep concern about it – in particular, the environmental impact, the odour from the incinerator, and the extensive noise and traffic disruption…”

If you’d like to object to the proposed incinerator at Portland Port, you can find information on how to lobby the MP for South Dorset, Richard Drax here.

You can find out more about the proposed Portland Incinerator here.

You can download a template for submitting an objection to Dorset Council here.

Here’s our guide to submitting an objection to Dorset Council.