Letter: Access to records of toxic waste

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The Independent Online
Sir: Friends of the Earth would like to thank Michel Pautrat, Guy Liardet (Letters, 27 July) and T F W McKillop (Letters, 30 July) respectively for disclosing the actual amount of toxic metals discharged by the Rhone-Poulenc Rorer plant at Dagenham, the Ectona Fibres (now Eastman Chemicals) Ectona Ltd plant in Cumbria and the ICI plant at Macclesfield (three companies on our list of the holders of the top 100 permits to discharge 'trade effluents' containing toxic metals into the sewers).

Your correspondents underline our point that the actual discharges of toxic waste into sewers may bear no relation to what is currently permitted. Instead of complaining about the disparity, companies should relinquish permits that they don't need.

The public have no formal way of unearthing the discrepancy between 'actual' and 'permitted' discharges, because they only have a right of access to information about the discharge permits held by companies, not the results of the monitoring of the actual discharge. While the voluntary disclosure of such information is welcome, that is no substitute for a legal obligation to disclose.

The information about the permits was obtained by Friends of the Earth from the registers maintained by the privatised sewerage undertakers (water plcs). The 'bureaucratic error' mentioned by Mr Liardet, was made by North West Water, not us, and reflects upon the state of many of the trade effluent registers we

inspected.

Guy Liardet suggests that 'all these facts are available at the price of a telephone call'. Does he really expect Friends of the Earth to ring each of the 7,500 companies whose permits we examined, instead of relying on free inspections of the public register which is meant by law to contain that

information?

Yours faithfully,

ANDREW LEES

Campaigns Director

Friends of the Earth

London, N1

30 July

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