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Shocked Scots residents were woken by their houses shaking during an unplanned flaring at a chemical plant in Fife.
Dozens of householders in Cowdenbeath described a rumbling that they thought was an earthquake as a bright light shot through the skies at 3.30am on Sunday morning.
The locals who live near the Mossmorran plant say they’ve had enough after complaints about ‘worrying’ activity at the under-fire site have ‘fallen on deaf ears’ for years.
Furious Elaine Green, who lives about a mile away from the plant, captured the latest shocking flaring footage and says the effects could be felt at properties all over the area.
She told the Daily Record: “I honestly thought it was blowing up this time.
“The room I was sleeping in is at the top our house, a two and a half storey building, which sits parallel to the plant and we’re about a mile away as the crow flies.
“The door to the eves was rattling and the whole room was lit up bright orange.
“It was like a jumbo jet was hovering above me.
“It’s always horrendous when it happens, but this was exceptional this time.
“I’m sure I speak for everyone round here when I say I’ve had enough.”
ExxonMobil has come under increasing pressure over the years to cutback on flaring at Mossmorran.
In February we reported hundreds of local residents complained about the “apocalyptic” scenes, with flames visible from as far away as Edinburgh.
The plant was shut for a time last year to try and fix the issues.
Problems with a process unit combined with a reduced capacity of ground flares intensified the flaring at the beginning of the years.
Also in February, more than 100 workers staged an unofficial walkout to protest redundancy selection measures, as well as pay and health and safety at the plant.
Elaine said those living in the vicinity feel let down by the Scottish Environment Agency as well as politicians.
The gran-of-six worries about the health effects, both mental and physical, on locals.
She said: “I worry about how terrifying it is for my grandchildren who all live near the plant.
“And for autistic children nearby, how awful those noises are for them, especially at a time that is scary enough for people with the coronavirus pandemic.
“And I worry about things like cancer and asthma and the other health effects, my dad has just completed two rounds of chemotherapy for lung cancer and there is a huge instance of the disease in nearby Lochgelly and Kirckcaldy.
“The black smoke blows easterly towards those places, I mean they say it’s steam but I wouldn’t put my head in it.
“I also worry it will put people off buying or building houses here.
“We built our house 20 years ago but Cowdenbeath is built on old mineshafts and feeling it shake on the surface, I worry about the damage it’s doing below the ground too.
“This area has such a lot going for it but it will put people off moving here, and we’ve got businesses who are failing because of the pandemic.”
Elaine is a member of the Mossmorran Action group, which now boasts more than 3,000 other locals amongst its ranks.
She indicated their next step will be a socially-distant protest and they hope to close neighbouring roads to the plant in the hope of causing as big an impact as possible.
She added: “It’s still flaring away now, hours later, sometimes it’s gone on for a week.
“It’s just ridiculous, it’s not meant to happen at all but it happens repeatedly.
“We feel totally let down, it needs to be raised at parliament because we just go round and round in circles.
“I don’t know why this plant was put here, but it’s up to our generation to get rid of it once and for all.”
Last month we reported a national trade union slammed calls from the Scottish Greens for the Mossmorran plant to close and insisted the site has a future despite the years of complaints.
The GMB said it was “staggering” any politician would want the giant chemical complex to wind-down operations at a time of rising unemployment caused by the global pandemic.
In a frank letter sent to its members at Mossmorran last week, the union insisted that much talked-about promises of a transition to a more green economy in Scotland could not be trusted.
SEPA said they were assessing whether there has been a breach of permit conditions with the latest incident.
They added that officers have been deployed to record the impact at five locations near the site, whohave noted community noise and monitors continue to demonstrate no breach of air quality standards”.
Chris Dailly, SEPA’s Head of Environmental Performance, said: “Whilst limited, controlled flaring is an authorised and important safety feature of industrial sites, we know it has been happening too often at Mossmorran and the community impacts are often significant.
“That’s why we have referred ExxonMobil Chemical Limited to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) for consideration of prosecution related to the Easter 2019 flaring event and why we have required the installation of noise reducing flare tips by 8 May 2021 followed by the installation of ground flares.
“Whilst we don’t know yet from the company the cause of the latest flaring or expected duration, we will provide further updates as soon as further information becomes available.
“In addition to our fixed air quality and noise monitoring points across the area, officers are deployed to record community impacts at five locations surrounding the site.
“Officers have noted community noise impacts and our monitors continue to demonstrate no breach of air quality standards.
“Our work now across the incident will determine whether there has been a breach of permit conditions and what our next steps will be in line with our published Enforcement Policy.
“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.”