Pollution: Campaigners Call for Action Following Errors

Urgent action must be taken to restore public confidence in official sources of pollution said WWF Scotland today.

The environmental group made the call following the revelation [1] that publicly available information on toxic pollution was wrong – sometimes by a factor of a million.

Landfill sites, chemical companies and paper mills turn out to have reported the wrong figures to SEPA’s Pollution Release Inventory. In the worst case a landfill site in Ayrshire reported releasing 100 times more of the deadly pollutant dioxin than the whole of the rest of the UK, getting its figures wrong by a factor of at least a million.

Commenting WWF Scotland’s Director, Dr Richard Dixon, said:

“This pollution register should be an invaluable tool for local communities and researchers but this brief survey has turned up so many errors and on such a scale that it calls into question the whole value of the register itself. A landfill site claiming to have released 100 times the total UK emissions of one of the most toxic substances known to man should have set huge alarm bells ringing. Instead it was apparently accepted without question. SEPA clearly need major changes to the way they check the data that comes in from companies in future, but they also need to go back and check every item in the register if people are to trust it in future.

“Companies which are sending in nonsense figures need to realise that they have to get this right. SEPA shouldn’t have to waste time correcting basic errors and companies which are wasting public money in this way should be made to pay.

“The most concerning aspect of these revelations is that, if companies can accidentally over-report by a factor of a million, there may be other companies who are deliberately getting away with under-reporting on a grand scale. The inadequacies of Scotland's pollution register highlight the potential for bad companies to abuse the trusting relationship that SEPA tries to generate with industry.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS:

[1] Sunday Herald “The Sleeping Watchdog” 24th July 2011 on pages 12-15

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/transport-environment/sepa-the-sleeping-watchdog-1.1113711

[2] SEPA’s Pollution Release Inventory is here: http://www.sepa.org.uk/air/process_industry_regulation/pollutant_release_inventory.aspx Many of the incorrect figures have now been removed from the site.

Contact: Mandy Carter
Phone: 07771 818 67

Website: http://www.wwfscotland.org.uk