Scotland’s new public health minister has been urged to order a public health inquiry into the Mossmorran chemical plant.
Joe Fitzpatrick was told to stop ignoring the suffering of those who live near Fife Ethylene Plant and Fife NGL Plant by Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Mark Ruskell.
Major flaring incidents over the last year at the Cowdenbeath plants run by ExxonMobil Chemical and Shell UK have reignited concerns in the surrounding communities.
Flaring occurs during planned or unplanned maintenance and is part of the site’s safety mechanism but it causes disruption to those living nearby.
Mossmorran Action Group has collected more than 50 reports from residents of social and health impacts of flaring, including sleep loss, headaches, migraines and anxiety attacks.
Mr Ruskell said: “I’m constantly being reassured that air pollution is being monitored, which is to be expected given that is part of the plant’s basic legal compliance.
“No one, however, seems prepared to take on local people’s concerns about the noise, light pollution or vibrations coming from the plant, especially during flaring.
“I held a productive meeting with the previous minister for public health who promised to look into the issue further, but the new minister Joe Fitzpatrick, has largely ignored the suffering from light, vibration and noise that my constituents face.
“Loss of sleep due to noise and light pollution or anxiety attacks brought on during flaring are serious and life altering concerns for local people.
“I understand that these are difficult things to monitor but that’s why the public health minister needs to show leadership on this and commission an independent study into local people’s public health concerns.”
James Glen, of Mossmorran Action Group, said: “We are told there is no scientific evidence for the harm Mossmorran’s operations are undoubtedly doing to their health and well-being but then the authorities responsible for gathering evidence refuse to do so.
“Ultimately it is the minister for public health who has the responsibility for failing to protect Central Fife residents from industrial pollution, and the power to compel the NHS and other agencies to do the necessary research. It’s time he acted.”
Mr Fitzpatrick previously ruled out a study of the health impacts of flaring, pointing out difficulties in yielding meaningful results.
He said a review by Health Protection Scotland of Sepa’s monitoring data during a recent flaring episode concluded the likelihood of exposure to significant or harmful levels of toxic pollutants appeared low.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is clear that prolonged, unplanned flaring is unacceptable.
“The Scottish Environment Protection Agency, having served final warning letters on both ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell UK, is currently undertaking a joint regulatory investigation with the Health and Safety Executive.”