Growing anger as fertiliser store set to expand

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A FIRM which wants to store hundreds more tonnes of a fertiliser that can be used for explosives at Goole Docks looks set to get the go-ahead despite health and safety fears.

NW Trading Ltd wants to increase the amount of ammonium nitrate it already handles at the docks from 3,000 tonnes to up to 4,999 tonnes.

Arriving in sealed bags, it will be stored in the open before being blended in a shed with other chemicals and taken to farms for use in agriculture.

But some of the owners who have permanent moorings at Viking Marina just 150m away are objecting.

One said: “Their attitude to health and safety and general good housekeeping of their premises is severely lacking, as is apparent by damaged boundary fences, discarded materials and heaps of rubbish, both inside and outside their fences, so how will they treat this processing with any more respect?

“We fear the consequences if the expansion is approved.”

Another raised concerns about explosions – including one in Texas which killed 14 people.

Goole town council is also objecting claiming that local residents have been subjected to dust pollution, and any increase in the tonnage stored “will only exacerbate the problem”. The town council recently complained about dust to the public protection team at East Riding Council – but their complaint was not upheld.

But NW Trading claimed there have been no incidents in the UK ever recorded because of stringent health and safety rules.

The site has had inspections, audits and reviews by numerous bodies including the Health & Safety Executive, Environment Agency and East Riding Council. There have also been reviews by external health and safety specialists, the fire service, Associated British Ports – and even a Special Branch security inspection.

Commonly used in agriculture as a high-nitrogen fertilizer, ammonium nitrate has also been used as an oxidizing agent in explosives, including improvised explosive devices.

Imports have to pass a “detonation resistance” test where a sample is subjected to heat and pressure in a confined space.

Health and safety manager for NW Trading Pete Wallace said: “We have responded to a number of complaints and concerns raised by local people.

“We’ve had a long list of organisations down at the site in relation to the planning application and to date not one had found any evidence of the suggestions made by local neighbours.

“Neighbours automatically blame any dust on ammonium nitrate, but we only handle it in sealed bags. On occasions the ‘dust’ has turned out to be sand.

“It’s a little frustrating because we are complying with UK law and legislation and it seems we are constantly trying to defend ourselves against claims.”

NW Trading already employs 27 staff at Goole, and says the increase in tonnage will support existing jobs and create full-time jobs in handling, blending and bagging fertiliser, as well as increasing the use of the local supply chain.

Mr Wallace said: “The company is growing all the time and the application will help us keep up with orders. Agriculture is turning away from certain fertilisers to ones that are more productive for crops and ammonium nitrate is one of these.”

Planners are recommending approval, and say the concerns of residents are “understandable”, but the risks have not been substantiated.

In a report going to councillors on October 17 they say the HSE’s advice is “crucial”.

They state: “They (the HSE) concluded that the risks to the surrounding population are so small there are no significant reasons on safety grounds for refusing consent provided their recommended conditions are imposed.”

The report adds: “The proposal to increase the amount of hazardous substances stored on site from 3,000 to 4,999 tonnes is not considered to impact upon residential amenity nor have significant adverse effects on the environment. It is considered that the issues raised have been fully addressed.”