Toxic Fumes, Rhymney
§ 9. Mr. Rowlands
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement about the recent escape of toxic fumes in Rhymney.
§ Mr. Grist
On Sunday 28 October 1990 there was an incident at the waste disposal site at Rhymney, operated by Euromet Ltd. under a licence issued by Rhymney Valley district council. A chemical drum on the site ruptured, releasing a quantity of noxious vapour.
Officers of the Rhymney Valley district council attended the site that evening and the council which, as licensing authority is responsible for the supervision of the activities at the site, subsequently instructed its officers to take action to secure the removal of waste and drums from the site through exercise of its powers under the Control of Pollution Act 1974.
The hon. Gentleman will know from my letter of 19 November that the Rhymney Valley district council is under a specific duty, as licensing authority, to ensure that the licensed activities at the site do not cause pollution of water or danger to public health or become seriously detrimental to the amenities of the locality. Our Department is continuing to keep in close touch with the council's response to this incident.
§ Mr. Rowlands
Is the Secretary of State aware of the enormous resentment and bitterness in the Rhymney community at the fact that people can dump 6,500 drums of noxious waste in the community without any form of planning permission? Is he aware further that there is considerable resentment at the complacency shown by the Health and Safety Executive and other organisations in that respect? Will he therefore meet the fears and wishes of the Rhymney community by revoking the licence and financially assisting the local authority to clear the site?
§ Mr. Grist
The hon. Gentleman persists, as do others, in avoiding the fact that the matter is in the hands of the local authority. It is most disappointing that, when the Welsh Office has taken the side of local authorities in allowing them to continue to be responsible in such matters, as opposed to what is happening in England, difficulties of this kind occur which tend to undermine that position. It was up to the local authority, which in turn revoked the licence in part—it could have revoked it entirely and closed down the operation, but it chose not to do so—and there is now an appeal to the Welsh Office. The local authority again failed until 6 November to provide information on which the Welsh Office could decide the appeal.