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Southall locals stage protest over air pollution from two incinerators in a residential area which they say Ealing Council is doing nothing to help them

Residents from across Southall came together today in a protest outside Balfour Industrial Estate on Johnson Street which they say has two incinerators pumping fumes into the atmosphere that is causing danger to their health. 

For several years, locals have been contacting Labour-run Ealing Council and their local Southall Green councillors about it but claim despite this, no action has been taken and the fumes continue which they say impacts their lives.


Angela Fonso who organised the protest and also co-ordinates local campaigning group Clean Air for Southall and Hayes (CASH), told EALING.NEWS that Ealing Council needs to take action over how her community has been impacted by the two incinerators.

She said: “They need to step up and treat this as a statutory odour nuisance and use the Environmental Protection Act to serve an abatement notice on these companies.”

Previously Ealing Council said in a statement to MyLondon: “The control over the use of these incinerators is regulated by the Environment Agency. The council will be writing to both the Environment Agency and businesses who use these incinerators to raise residents’ concerns and to explore the best practicable outcome.”

But Ms Fonso said the Council has a responsibility to its residents and has the power to enforce action which it is not doing.

Photos from the two incinerators taken earlier this month. Campaigners say it was cleaned up today (29 October 2022) when they visited. One resident told EALING.NEWS “They know people are taking about it”.

Ms Fonso explained how the council should manage the situation and take action. “It’s down to the council to deal with odour nuisance complaints. That is their responsibility. And it’s also very unclear whether these incinerators have a permit, because originally the council said that they’re too small to require a permit. Now they seem to have backtracked and said one of the incinerators is permitted by the Agency. Why should we believe anything that this council says?

“It’s their responsibility as a local authority to investigate odour nuisance complaints, and take appropriate action. It’s unacceptable that in my home, I’m inhaling burning plastic that is irritating my chest, my throat, not only myself but my children are badly affected. And it’s distressing to think that potentially their lives are being shortened because two companies want to save money, but also make a profit at the same time at the expense of the community’s health.”

During the protest, residents living in Johnson Street came out to speak to the campaigners and shared their experiences of having the incinerators operating on their street.

“This is just so terrible, no one from the Council or any authority seems to care about us.  Our needs to breathe clean air are being ignored. It is just cruel the way we are treated,” one local who didn’t want to give their name told EALING.NEWS about what it has been like for them.

David Marsden who also lives nearby shared his experience of the incinerators:
“I’m here today with my son Zion. He’s eight now, when he was nearly four years old, he was walking to nursery with me and said ‘what’s that smell of burning daddy?’
And that’s when, together with Angela, my neighbour and a few other people who live locally, we decided to form a campaign group to get clean air for my son and everyone else’s kids and everyone who lives here.

“We’re here today because of these two incinerators which are very local to us. So what happens to us is we frequently get a burning plastic smell coming into our kitchen and bathroom windows. We have to close all the windows. It’s really disgusting. There’s a very, very strong smell of burning plastic especially in the summer.

“Zion has asthma and he can’t play outside with all this toxic air. Zion has had to be hospitalised three times when he was young because of asthma. And the particles in the air they get into his airways and they close his airways down so he can’t breathe. He literally cannot breathe. And that’s the problem we’re facing is that you know people here cannot breathe because of the toxic air pollution.

“We’ve been complaining to the council about all these issues for many years. And basically, they just don’t believe us. They say, Oh, well, we’ll send an expert round to try and verify your lived experience in a few hours or a few days if at all. And then of course, they find nothing because the smell has gone at that particular time.Their response is really absolutely shameful.  And we’ve been fighting this for years. We had a big meeting in 2019,  250 to 300 people turned up at the Dominion centre. They were all very angry, complaining with lots of evidence and again, we were simply ignored. The most that the council and our elected representatives ever did was to write to the Environment Agency and the Environmental Agency are completely useless and toothless.”

Another Southall resident, Janet, spoke of her concerns:
“I live locally and not only have we been having the smell from the Southall Gasworks and the Berkeley Homes we’re also having to put up with the smoke from this. Some days when you are sitting in your back garden, or you got washing out, it’s as someone’s got a bonfire going. You smell burning plastic and burning wood. So when Angela highlighted what was going on, I just thought I had to come along today to give my support. This should be stopped. Sadiq Khan makes a big thing in London about pollution and air quality and everything but what is he doing about the air quality in our area? What has he done about the pollution that’s been caused to us locals?”

Ms Fonso previously told EALING.NEWS they have contacted Ealing Council on a regular basis but no one has come to help them. “I have reported the smell of burning plastic on numerous occasions to the Environmental Protection Officer (EPO) for Southall and on one occasion he said that he detected odour at the nearby car servicing garages but was unable to ascertain the origin. The odour is prevalent at the weekends, but the EPO is unavailable during this time period or before 8.00pm and after 4.00pm on weekdays.

“There has been no support from local councillors who haven’t responded to emails on the issue of air pollution from the incinerators, despite allegations that one of the incinerators doesn’t resemble those manufactured by the company advertised on the outside.”

Ms Fonso said that having the incinerators in a densely populated residential area in Southall wouldn’t be allowed in other parts of Ealing: “It is wholly inappropriate to have two incinerators virtually side by side in the middle of a residential area. It is unlikely that these companies would be operating in a W5 postcode. Ealing Council needs to treat the odour as statutory odour nuisance and serve abatement notices. Also, the Council should investigate asthma data and the complaints that the odour is causing respiratory irritation.

“The two incinerators aren’t an isolated issue, CASH’s attention was recently drawn to a tree recycling company on Sussex Road a short distance away from the incinerators, causing tremendous dust and odour, resulting in nausea and headaches. Southall is a classic example of environmental injustice impacting a community who are predominantly brown, black and disadvantaged.”

Councillor Athena Zissimos, Ealing Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the environment including streets, parks, air quality and climate change, said: “It would be great to see Ealing Labour Council take residents’ concerns about a burning plastic smell seriously. More effort is needed by the Council to ascertain where the smells are coming from so that notices can be served on premises such as these incinerators in Southall.”

She added: “Liberal Democrats say that all Ealing residents deserve clean air. The Liberal Democrats are asking the Council to take action.”

EALING.NEWS has approached Ealing Council for a comment.

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