A waste expert has spoken out in favour of a new “gasification” power plant in St James by claiming the smokestacks would kick out little more than “steam.”
The debate over exactly how harmful toxins released from the proposed £120 million facility at the Westbridge Depot has rumbled on for more than 18 months.
It would create energy by “baking” non-recyclable waste, piping heat off to properties in St James and Far Cotton and electricity into the local grid, the developers Rolton Kilbride, claim.
The Green Party’s environmental spokesman Tony Clarke believes the plant will be an “incinerator,” which could give off harmful toxin levels.
But manager of the Centre for Sustainable Wastes Management at the University of Northampton, Professor Margaret Bates, a supporter of such plants, believes the flues will not emit anything over a harmful level.
She said: “There is a reason these plants are referred to as gasification plants - they are far more advanced than people think.
“When you go to one of these plants the thing that really gets you is the section which cooks the waste is tiny compared the air quality control bit.
“It is incredibly heavily regulated.
“What comes out of the smokestack is effectively steam.”
Professor Bates, who is considered one of the UK’s leading experts in managing waste, will be at the next St James Residents’ Association meeting on Thursday, March 10, to talk to residents about their concerns. She says she is an impartial voice in the power plant debate.
The University of Northampton’s new Waterside campus would likely receive cheaper energy as a result of the plant, and vice chancellor Nick Petford is a board member of the community energy company which would wholesale the energy to the public.
But Professor Bates claims she is speaking in her own capacity.
She said: “From my point of view we are the local university - we are the local knowledge base if you like. I am here to help people make an informed decision.”
She adds that she is not concerned about the town centre location of the proposed plant, so near to large residential areas.
“In my eyes it is actually beneficial,” she said. “Because the further away homes are to the plant the less efficient the piping of heat becomes.”
Rolton Kilbride admits there will be some C02 coming out of the flue, the debate centres on whether those emissions will be harmful.
However the official air quality impact report will not be ready for another month, which former MP Mr Clarke believes gives people a limited time to comment on the power station in the closing stages of consultation.
Conflicting reports suggest that other forms of heat-treating plants can kick out harmful particles, including trace amounts mercury.
On Professor Bates’ comments, Mr Clarke responded: “She is completely wrong.
“There are toxins and furins coming out of those stacks - it is not just steam there are particles coming out of there.
“Those stacks are a major concern for people’s health.”