Mepal couple told to wear face masks ‘as much as possible’ to protect them from developing carbon monoxide poisoning

PUBLISHED: 12:45 19 November 2015 | UPDATED: 12:45 19 November 2015

Ruby Baxter with the mask she has to wear outside. Picture: Steve Williams.

Ruby Baxter with the mask she has to wear outside. Picture: Steve Williams.

Archant

A couple has been forced to buy face masks after being advised by a hospital to wear them in their garden following a spate of straw bale fires near their home.

Ruby Baxter with the mask she has to wear outside. Picture: Steve Williams. Ruby Baxter with the mask she has to wear outside. Picture: Steve Williams.

The advice, from a doctor at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, follows stack fires at the nearby Ely EPR straw bale holding site at Blockmoor Drove.

Smoke and ash has regularly wafted over their Hiams Farm home in Chatteris Road, Mepal, where they have lived for 18 years.

“We have been suffering with constant headaches and sore throats over the last few days,” said Mr Baxter.

“Someone said we ought to go and get ourselves checked out, because these are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Ruby Baxter with the mask she has to wear outside. Picture: Steve Williams. Ruby Baxter with the mask she has to wear outside. Picture: Steve Williams.

Mr Baxter and his wife went to Hinchingbrooke Hospital and after blood tests they were cleared of carbon monoxide poisoning.

However, they were advised to wear masks “as much as possible” when going outside their home because if smoke gets into their system it could potentially make things a lot worse.

“We’ve now got to walk around like we’re stupid aliens”, Mr Baxter said.

“The environmental agency didn’t want to know anything – until now. When I called them on Monday they seem to have pulled their fingers out.”

Mr Baxter said that health protection officers meant to be visiting them this week..

He added: “If it’s not an environmental issue then whose issue is it?”

Elizabeth Stazicker, chairman of Mepal Parish Council, said all planning conditions were in order and “these cannot be undone”. She said that with “hindsight, the site is inappropriate to its use, being relatively close to dwellings and readily accessible from the main road.”

She believes there may be a chance those firms involved may want move to a different site because of “reputational damage”.

Straw Holding site at Greys farm Horseley Fen. Mepal.  Straw burning. Picture: Steve Williams.) Straw Holding site at Greys farm Horseley Fen. Mepal. Straw burning. Picture: Steve Williams.)

She said: “There are perhaps a number of solutions, none of them sadly, simple or cost free”. She believes many of the fires have been as a “result of arson”.

Claire Braybrook, environmental health technical officer for East Cambs Council, said advice had been sought from the environmental hazards and emergencies centre for radiation, chemical and environmental hazards team.

Their response was that the Baxters should “keep their doors and windows closed and turn their air conditioning off in their car if they drive through a smoky area”.

A council spokesman said: “I can confirm that EPR Ely does have planning permission for open stage of bio fuel, but we will investigate Mr Baxter’s comments further.”

An “apocalyptic wasteland” is how Mr Baxter describes the straw bale holding site that’s piling higher and higher at the back of his home and causing problems.The straw is needed for Elean Power Station at Sutton but Mr Baxter and his wife feel they are trapped in a renewable energy nightmare that is destroying their lives.

Since August fire crews have dealt with three separate incidents at the site but these are by no means the only occasions the emergency services have been called.

The site is owned by the Lees family who then lease it to Elean (EPR Ely Limited).

EPR is owned by MEIF Renewable Energy UK PLC, a renewable energy generator which specialises in converting straw and miscanthus into electricity.

The company’s manifesto reads: “We were the first straw-fuelled power station in the UK and have been generating green energy since 2000.

“Our combustion ash is sold as fertiliser to the British agricultural industry making this a truly sustainable business model.”

It continues: “We have strong environmental awareness with a continued focus on improving our green credentials.”

Elean Power Station is a £60million plant located at Sutton. It was the UK’s first and the world’s largest straw fired power station.

Justin Long, EPR Ely’s straw operations manager, said: “EPR Ely Ltd maintains a security presence at the Mepal straw holding site in order to protect its assets.

“Despite these regular patrols we have been victim of three fires recently. We take such incidents very seriously and we are liaising with the fire service to prevent further reoccurences.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused to local residents.”

1 comment

  • The masks worn will not protect anyone from carbon monoxide poisoning but they may prevent dust and burnt material in the atmosphere from being breathed in. The renewable energy generators still have a long way to go before they are environmentally friendly themselves. Almost all of them produce a local nuisance of some kind, smell, dust, noise etc. and most of it completely avoidable with a little more thought. Although the renewable energy producers and plant manufacturers like to proclaim their green credentials, for most of them the quest for profit is more important than preventing their own environmental pollution.

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    A Wisbech Voice

    Friday, November 20, 2015

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