“Nobody built the plant expecting it to fail but our experience is that all these plants are not perfect, and the regulation is important. To give you an example, there have been seven catastrophic failures recently within a nine month period, two of which were explosive in nature where the gas built up and the lids popped off and the walls blew out.”
Ed Mitchell, December 2013: Executive Director of Environment and Business at the Environment Agency, reporting to the House of Lords Science & Technology select committee.
Here are just some of the serious and sometimes life-threatening incidents from anaerobic digester plants in the UK in recent times:
- May 2014 – Anaerobic Digester tank explodes at Harper Adams plant, flooding farmland and closing major road. http://www.shropshirestar.com/news/2014/05/30/shropshire-sludge-power-plant-collapses/digestionplant3ae30/
- Fernbrook Bio, Rothwell, Northants – County Councillor says the plant should be shut as the smells are destroying the quality of life for residents living over half a mile away from the plant. http://www.northantstelegraph.co.uk/news/environment/residents-kick-up-a-stink-over-rothwell-smell-1-4382274
- 2013 – Botulism causes fatalities in a dairy herd in Wrexham on land surrounding anaerobic digester facility.
- 2013 – Bio Energy in Cannington, Somerset are fined £30,000 after 60 tonnes of digestate escapes from a pipe at the AD plant. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-22810812 or http://www.bridgwatermercury.co.uk/news/11121608.Cannington_brook_turns_black_after_500_tonne_fertiliser_spillage/?ref=mc
- February 2013 – a major leak at Harper Adams AD plant in Shropshire floods fields and enters nearby rivers, polluting the water system. http://www.fwi.co.uk/business/harper-leak-involved-8m-litre-waste-tank.htm
- September 2012 – 300,000 litres of digestate from Clapham Biogas overflows and pollutes the nearby water system. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/clapham-anaerobic-site-risked-pollution
- HL Foods, Lincolnshire are fined £140,000 by the Environmental Agency for the horrendous smells affecting the local area, which they say is similar to the stench of “dead rats”. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/lincolnshire/7838449.stm
- AD plant in Farrington, Lancashire applies to extend its exhaust stacks from 39 feet to 82 feet, to try and improve the air quality for local residents (in other words, the plant gives off a horrible stench, even though the application said there would be NO smell).
- Most recently, in September 2017, an explosion occurred at an AD in Colwick, Nottinghamshire. Two men were seriously injured; one has lost his leg. http://www.nottinghampost.com/news/nottingham-news/gas-explosion-industrial-site-colwick-508048 http://www.nottinghampost.com/news/nottingham-news/heartbreak-st-anns-family-after-510915
There are literally dozens and dozens more similar incidents, but we don’t want to repeat the same points over and over.