Grangemouth cooling proposal draws some heat

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A public inquiry into plans for a multi-million pound biomass plant came to an end with a heated debate about a cooling system.

Developer Forth Energy and the objectors, Grangemouth Community Council Coalition, got their points across to government-appointed reporter Trevor Croft throughout the two-week undertaking.

It called to look in detail at the proposed development at the Port of Grangemouth.

In the last few days of the inquiry, Mr Croft heard evidence on issues surrounding fisheries, water pollution and air quality.

Ecological consultancy firm Pisces Conservation Limited has been working on the plant’s cooling system, which would take water from the Western Channel in the port and then discharge it into the River Carron.

Conservation director Peter Henderson said: “We are very satisfied we created an excellent design which will minimise the aquatic impacts.”

But Tony Harris, founder and secretary of River Carron Fisheries Management Group, said Forth Energy had to rethink their plans, suggesting they discharge into the docks because there’s a far greater volume of water to aid dilution of waste.

He added: “We believe the whole plant layout and design is wrong. You must have concerns about the discharge yourself, because you don’t want it coming back into the dock.’’ Mr Henderson responded: “Putting the effluent back into the dock places us in danger of sucking up the heat we are trying to get rid of.”

Turning to air quality, Forth Energy stated Grangemouth-based Ineos was already working on a £30 million sulphur dioxide abatement plant to deal with the town’s SO2 emissions and they themselves had put several measures in place - including a flue gas treatment system.

Alun McIntyre, technical director of SKM Enviros, said: “The air quality impacts of the proposed renewable energy plant would be insignificant and would not adversely affect human health, vegetation and ecosystems.

“The findings of the assessment are clear and have been accepted by both SEPA and Scottish Natural Heritage.”

Kathleen McIntosh of Grangemouth Community Council said she had little or no confidence in SEPA as a regulatory body.

She added: “We have a duty of care to the community to insure they breathe clean air. I’m very asthmatic and I can’t go certain places in Grangemouth at the moment due to the poor air quality.

“It’s all well and good doing computer modelling, but I think Forth Energy has to have people actually on the ground here so they can realise what a bad idea this is.”

The inquiry at an end, Mr Croft went on a site inspection this week before going off to write his report based on the evidence he heard over the last nine days.

He will then give his recommendations to Scottish ministers, who will decide whether the biomass plant gets the go ahead or not.