Petition raises fears over dust levels from Totternhoe firm

Plasterboard Recycling Solutions Limited
Plasterboard Recycling Solutions Limited

More stringent checks on a plasterboard recycling company’s raw materials and machinery are being called for by campaigners in Totternhoe.

Residents are concerned about the levels of dust from Plasterboard Recycling Solutions Limited and the effects from HGVs leaving the site.

Plasterboard Recycling Solutions Limited

Plasterboard Recycling Solutions Limited

Their public health concerns were part of an e-petition submitted to Central Bedfordshire Council.

The petition was in the name of Marc Boiteux-Buchanan, who told the LBO in February: “The licence says the operation must be enclosed in a sealed building so dust is unable to escape.”

Conservative Eaton Bray councillor Philip Spicer read the petition out at a meeting of the council’s executive on Tuesday. “It relates to the potential toxicity of the global sourcing of plasterboard, known as dry wall flooring construction industry, from outside the EU,” he said.

“Great concern is growing within the residents of Totternhoe about the volumes of plasterboard recycling and extracts of gypsum at the original limeworks facilities.

“We’ve noted multiple daily deliveries of foreign number plated HGVs, including shipping containers.”

Residents are concerned the materials could be outside the controls of EU manufacturing standards, the executive heard.

“Every business has the right to trade,” according to the petition, which explained that “much dust” is generated by the operation close to residential areas, farmland and the Totternhoe Knolls conservation area.

The petition asked the executive to work with the Environment Agency so the gypsum plasterboard can be tested “before pick-up and delivery, so we can understand what’s in the plasterboard”.

It also called for “a possible inspection of the processing parts every year to make sure the dust particles can’t leave the recycling area”.

The company is based at the old lime kiln site at Lower End, around 500m from Totternhoe.

It has a licence from the Environment Agency to dispose of 50 tonnes of gypsum plasterboard per day, as well as to recycle the rest and sell it commercially.

Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno said a multi-agency meeting was held in March because of concerns raised by neighbours, residents and Bedfordshire Wildlife Trust.

“The site in question is licensed and managed by the Environment Agency, which met CBC officers,” he explained.

“Some activity was outside the reach of either organisation. But some enforcement measures were being taken.

“Since then talks have been held with the owners and leaseholders of Totternhoe quarry and also the limeworks.

“There has been continued liaision between the operator and the Environment Agency since March.

“The operator has done repairs to the particle processing building to minimise the dispersal of gypsum dust outside the premises.

“That was thought to have been a significant factor with some of the issues locally,” he added.

“Dust prevention measures have also been produced in the area where the HGVs are loaded to reduce the likelihood of gypsum dust being distributed by vehicles leaving the site.

“The operator continues to have a contract with a road sweeper company to ensure Knolls View is kept clear and is cleaned on a weekly basis.

“Planning enforcement officers are encouraging the site owner to carry out improvements to the road surface within the site to prevent the transfer of dust and particles on to the highway.

“With this cooperation plasterboard vehicles would be less likely to pick up gypsum and slurry, and then transfer them on to Knolls View.”

As a waste planning authority, Councillor Dalgarno said: “CBC is satisfied that the plasterboard recycling business is currently operating lawfully in this class B2 area, the former limeworks.

“And as such our influence on their activity is very limited regarding the problems being reported.

“We continue to have a dialogue with the Environment Agency and the operator.

“Until the planning circumstances change, we rely on co-operation with other agencies and persuasion with all parties concerned to bring about improvements in that site. 

“The highways team have recently done repairs to the surface defects in Knolls View as part of a programme of routine maintenance.

“We will continue to monitor the cleanliness of the road,” added Councillor Dalgarno, who’s the executive member for community services.

“Routine mechanical road sweeping and litter picking continues, and we have not had any issues reported in the last quarter.

“Hopefully the petitioner and local residents will continue to see we are actively engaging with the local operators and the Environment Agency, and will continue to do so.”

Derek Brown, from the recycling firm, told the Leighton Buzzard Observer in February: “The site is permitted to process 75,000 tonnes per year. Inputs and outputs are monitored by the Environment Agency.

“All of the plasterboard we recycle on site is sourced from the UK, both from manufacturers and the construction industry.”

He said it is possible that foreign registered vehicles and containers arrive and leave the site, as other businesses there are involved in exporting goods.

“They do not collect from or deliver to us,” he added.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said at that time: “The site is permitted to store up to 3,000 tonnes of waste at any one stage, and has an annual throughput of 74,000 tonnes a year.

“Most of the gypsum is processed to meet a standard so that it is no longer considered to be a waste, and is sold on for re-use.”