HC Deb 18 July 1995 vol 263 cc1203-4W
Mr. Sweeney

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he will publish the results of the final phase of monitoring work by the university of East Anglia on polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxin contamination in the Panteg area of Pontypool. [36074]

Mr. Gwilym Jones

I have today published the outcome of the final elements of monitoring work commissioned by the Welsh Office on contamination levels in the Panteg area of Pontypool. I have arranged for copies of the report to be placed in the Library of the House, together with a commentary from Professor Roberts, the Secretary of State's independent adviser for this study.

This report—the seventh in the series of reports which have been published since the study began in January 1991—contains the results of additional poultry produce and grass sampling. It represents the conclusion of a most significant piece of environmental research, meticulously undertaken by independent experts. The results have helped considerably to resolve uncertainties and concerns over possible PCB and dioxin contamination in the vicinity of the Rechem incinerator at Pontypool.

The main part of the study was completed and published in April 1993 and the overall findings were reassuring. No evidence of widespread contamination in the Panteg area was found. A small area with elevated concentrations was revealed close to the Rechem plant and the company identified as a source of this localised contamination. Although the levels of contamination detected were not considered to pose any significant risk to public health or to the food chain, some additional monitoring was recommended to clarify certain points. This work was quickly put in hand by the Welsh Office and the subsequent results have been published as they have become available.

In addition, over the past two years or so, considerable improvements have been made on the Rechem site itself, including significant investment in new incineration and emission control plant. This should reduce emissions from the site and monitoring is taking place in order to verify this.

The seventh report concludes the environmental investigation. This report and the earlier results have shown that, with the exception of eggs from one property neighbouring the Rechem plant, estimated human exposure to PCBs and dioxins in the Panteg area is similar to that in other areas. The additional research has also provided useful reassurance that locally produced fruit and vegetables are safe to eat. No further monitoring in the wider Panteg area is therefore proposed, a view fully endorsed by the technical steering group which has been overseeing this project, and by Professor Roberts. However, some additional monitoring in relation to the one property mentioned above is recommended and this will be followed up by Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution. Meanwhile, earlier advice to the owners of this property not to consume produce from their poultry is being updated in the light of the latest findings.