THE destruction of 150 tonnes of chemicals from Syria’s weapons stockpile destined for destruction in Ellesmere Port will not arrive in the town until at least April, due to the Assad regime failing to meet export deadlines.
It had been thought that the substances were going to be destroyed at the end of February but Foreign Office officials and waste management bosses at Veolia – who are handling the chemicals – today told the Globe they are still in the troubled country.
Confirmation that the Bridges Road site will be responsible for destroying the consignment of “B Precursor” chemicals came in January, sparking concern from residents who felt that “transporting and destroying such a huge amount of dangerous chemicals” carried a high risk.
More than 1,000 people signed a petition calling on the Ministry of Defence to rethink their decision but Foreign Office officials and Veolia bosses today assured the Globe that the destruction process would be safe and the chemicals are “no different to those handled at the site every day”.
Veolia’s executive director David Lusher said: “We can’t run a site such as this without having a complete transparent and open door policy with the local community who are obviously a very major stakeholder to the site.
“The site has full containment in that if there was a spillage of any sort there is no risk to the surrounding area or the River Gowy. We haven’t had any in the 23 years since the facility has been here.”
Opened in 1990, the facility treats approximately 100,000 tonnes of hazardous materials every year and employs 73 staff.
Veolia's executive director David Lusher and Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Andrew Miller.
Mr Lusher added: “What we are talking about here with this MoD contract is 150 tonnes.
“There is nothing unusual or different about this material coming here.”
He said he was proud of the company’s safety record and confident that it can dispose of the chemicals safely.
“We have not had a loss time incident for over five years. That is something we are very proud of and want to continue for the next six, seven and eight years.”
The chemicals – which are expected to arrive in mid April at the earliest – will be treated at the High Temperature Incineration facility under its existing hazardous waste treatment contract with the Disposal Services Authority (DSA), which is part of the MoD.
The Globe was today given a tour of the facility that will dispose of the chemicals – which are thought to be enough to fill five lorries.
The chemicals will be rigorously tested before being incinerated at the site.
It had been previously thought that the chemicals would travel down the River Mersey but the Foreign Office said this was no longer the case and instead, they would be transported to a secure military port before being transferred to Ellesmere Port via road.
Destruction is expected to take two weeks and will see the chemicals – known as “B Precursors” - arrive in both solid and liquid form before being burnt at temperatures reaching 1,150C until all that remains is water and carbon dioxide.
The Foreign Office told the Globe it is difficult to set a timeframe for the destruction process due to President Bashar Assad’s regime failing to meet export deadlines, but the chemicals must be destroyed by June 30 as part of the deal.
Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Andrew Miller was also present on today’s tour and said he was confident that the facility could dispose of the chemicals in safe and secure manner.
He added: “I think as a nation we have a responsibility to help those people suffering in Syria.”