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Environment watchdog Sepa has received almost 400 complaints about “terrifying” flaring at the Mossmorran petrochemical plant.
As angry residents endured a third sleepless night due to the noise, light and vibrations from the Cowdenbeath site, Sepa revealed 380 people had lodged official complaints.
A Facebook page set up to discuss issues at Mossmorran received 200 new members in 24 hours, after householders were woken by the ongoing incident at 3.30 on Sunday morning.
The Mossmorran Action group now has more than 3,200 members.
Sepa said it was frustrated by the frequency of flaring from the ExxonMobil site and the lack of information coming from the operator.
It said the impact on local communities was being heard clearly.
Residents in nearby communities described the rumbling coming from the controversial plant as being like an earthquake or a low-flying aeroplane.
Elaine Green, from Cowdenbeath, said she had been on the verge of fleeing her home in fear on Sunday.
The latest bout of flaring was caused by a fault in the plant’s compressor.
The huge flame has been seen across Fife and the Lothians, with people posting alarming pictures on social media.
The Forth Bridges tonight with the flare from Mossmorran giving this often captured scene an apocalyptic feel. pic.twitter.com/xqh3Mr39AG
— Simon Douglas (@sjedouglas) October 5, 2020
— Tom Duffin Photographer (weePhotos) (@weePhotosEdin) October 5, 2020
Is Mossmorran even more visible than usual or is the New Town on fire? pic.twitter.com/r2xDYdsE77
— Max Sefton (@MaxSefton) October 5, 2020
This is the view in Glenrothes.. pic.twitter.com/a604LX6Ujs
— Susan Corr (@SusieChops) October 5, 2020
The Mossmorran flaring all the way from Alloa. Despicable they are allowed to get away with this pic.twitter.com/qpcioLgzjE
— Taylor (@dtaylor5633) October 4, 2020
— DoggieDaddie 🏳️🌈 (@DaddieDoggie) October 5, 2020
ExxonMobil insists the process is “completely safe” and is required so the site can operate safely.
It said it was working round the clock to resolve the matter and to restart the machine as soon as possible.
However, the flare was burning at a rate of 100 tonnes per hour at its height and while it has now reduced to 35 tonnes per hour, Sepa said it was still unacceptable and has launched an investigation.
Tonight’s Mossmorran flare is one of the worst ever. Utterly unacceptable that the residents should have to put up with this ongoing saga night after night.
— Liz Smith (@MspLiz) October 5, 2020
Chris Dailly, Sepa’s head of environmental performance, said: “Whilst its again important to stress that limited, controlled flaring is an authorised and important safety feature of industrial sites, we’ve heard clearly from over 380 reports to Sepa of the impact this further flaring event is having on local communities.
“Having referred ExxonMobil Chemical Limited to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) for consideration of prosecution related to Easter 2019 flaring, we remain frustrated by the frequency of flaring and the flow of information from the operator.
“We are investigating whether there has been a breach of permit conditions which would inform our next steps in line with our published Enforcement Policy.
“We are clear on our expectations of the operator, including requiring the installation of noise reducing flare tips followed by the installation of ground flares. Moreover, the operator must take steps to make flaring the exception rather than routine and if they will not, SEPA will consider further options to ensure they do so.
“Updates will be available on social media and sepa.org.uk/mossmorran and we urge the public to report community impacts at SEPA.org.uk/report.”
Ongoing monitoring indicates no breach of air quality standards, officers have noted a community noise impact.