Stewartby incinerator 'not a risk to public'

image copyrightCovanta Energy
image captionCampaigners claim the incinerator, near Stewartby, could release toxic metals into the water system

A legal challenge against a controversial incinerator has been dismissed by the High Court.

Concerns about pollution from Covanta Energy's Rookery Pit site led a group of locals to seek a judicial review.

But Mrs Justice Lang rejected their claim that there was a risk of "toxic metals" being discharged into the public drinking water.

The Environment Agency issued a permit for the plant, at an old clay pit near Stewartby, Bedfordshire, in January.

Local residents have been campaigning against the incinerator for nine years.

They claim "toxic dissolved heavy metals" could leak into nearby Stewartby Lake, which feeds into the River Ouse and water deemed fit for public consumption.

'Scientifically inaccurate'

They also said US-based Covanta Energy was "wrong" to say waste material would "not be expected to dissolve" in the wording of the permit and claimed that as a result, it was issued "upon a mistake of fact and/or erroneous science in respect of the discharge of potentially harmful heavy metals".

Mrs Lang agreed that the language used was "confusing and scientifically inaccurate" but said she did not believe it had swayed the Environment Agency's decision when issuing the permit, adding: "It is elementary science that heavy metals dissolve in water."

She also told how the Agency's officers have "scientific expertise" and said it was "implausible" they would have made this mistake.

Both the Environment Agency and Covanta Energy conceded the error but denied there was any risk to the public.

The incinerator will be capable of converting about 585,000 tonnes of household and business waste into 65MWe of electricity per year.

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