Call for Mossmorran operators to be put in Holyrood ‘dock’

© George McLuskie
Recent flaring at Mossmorran has caused considerable anxiety

People living in the shadow of the Mossmorran chemical plant pledged to put its operators in the dock amid fears about the impact on their health.

A petition is to be launched calling for Shell and ExxonMobil to be brought before a Scottish Parliament committee.

© DC Thomson
Recent flaring at Mossmorran.

Recent prolonged flaring and thick plumes of black smoke reignited worries about pollution, noise and vibration from Fife Ethylene Plant, near Cowdenbeath.

Around 120 people from communities including Lochgelly, Cardenden, Benarty and Auchtertool attended a public meeting called by the newly-formed Mossmorran Action Group.

They spoke of feeling afraid in their homes as walls shook and losing sleep due to the noise and light, which could be seen from miles around.

Mossmorran flares lighting up the night sky above Fife pose “no danger”

Group co-founder James Glen said: “We will push for a petition to get the plant operators in the dock at Holyrood.

“If we can get massive public support and can keep this in the public domain we can push for real change.”

Last month emergency flaring – the plant’s safety valve – lasted for nine days, which ExxonMobil said was due to pump failure.

A second unrelated episode blamed on a temporary interruption of gas feed from a supplier saw thick black smoke belch into the atmosphere.

Campaigners to form action group over Mossmorran health fears

Both companies were criticised for their absence from the meeting and doubt was cast on the ability of environmental watchdog Sepa to take meaningful action as it begins an investigation which could lead to a civil fine or criminal prosecution.

Resident Theresa Glen said: “Every time they flare people in the community become ill.

“I don’t care whether they get fined or not I want them to stop doing what they are doing, stop affecting our kids.”

Cowdenbeath resident Liz Ray said she woke one night to a noise like a jet engine trying to land and was so terrified she phoned the police.

She said: “I was scared in my own bed, in my own home at night. I thought my walls were going to come down.”

Lochgelly, Cardenden and Benarty councillor Mary Lockhart said people had lost confidence in the bodies which were supposed to be monitoring Mossmorran, including the independent review group set up by Fife Council which publishes an annual air quality review.

Rob Morris, of Sepa, said the prolonged period of flaring was “unsatisfactory” but warned the investigation would take months rather than weeks.

He said: “We will be looking at the permit conditions that apply to the operators with a view to taking action.

Mossmorran flaring: New appearance of black smoke adds to locals’ concerns

“We need to speak to people living in the communities and to understand what the impacts are on residents.”

Declining the invitation to attend, ExxonMobil said it works with the Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay Community and Safety Committee as the recognised forum but offered to meet action group representatives on site.

It also insisted years of rigorous testing showed facilities at Mossmorran had “no significant impact on air quality in the local communities” and met national and EU air quality objectives.