6 Sep 2010 Cambridge News

Hundreds report ill-effects from chemical site clean-up

More than half the people living next to a former agrochemical factory say the clean-up operation has made them ill, a survey has revealed.

Residents of Hauxton and Harston have reported experiencing sore throats, breathing difficulties, headaches, and sore eyes since work at the Bayer CropScience site started in March.

The work is being done to clear contaminated soil, to allow for houses to be built.
Some residents said they had suffered asthma attacks or been hospitalised.

But less than half of those who felt unwell went to their doctors, according to a questionnaire carried out by the HauxAir campaign group, which fears the long-term health risks of the works are being underestimated.

In the survey of 402 people, 52 per cent said they had noticed symptoms, and 58 per cent said they had to close their windows, but only 19 per cent said they had gone to the doctor.

Sore throats were reported by 31 per cent of people, 21 per cent had sore eyes, 20 per cent had headaches, and 19 per cent had breathing difficulties.

Nausea was reported by 3 per cent of people.

HauxAir believes the reported symptoms indicate sensors on the edge of the property, which will eventually be the site of 380 homes, are not recording the levels of chemicals properly, and that GPs seeing individual cases are not becoming aware of the bigger picture.

They fear this means official reassurances that there is no health risk are misguided.

Graham Ford, the group’s chairman, said: “My concern is that this is a long-term health timebomb that has been set ticking.

“We know we are going to get continued exposure over the next 15 months if there is no major change to the remediation process, and people will be left worrying about whether there will be health effects.”

HauxAir submitted a list of concerns about the site-clearing process to South Cambridgeshire District Council but is yet to get a full response.

A spokeswoman for the authority said: “We will seek to reply in a timely manner.

“However, we feel it is important to examine the issues carefully and in detail using the best available expertise.” Chris Havergal

Cambridge News 26/05/2010

Health fears over chemical site

Villagers are blaming a massive clean-up operation at a former chemical factory for making them feel unwell.

Soil at the old Bayer CropScience site in Hauxton is being decontaminated ahead of the construction of 380 homes, but the work is giving off nasty odours.

Reports of sore throats, headaches and tight chests in the area have been attributed to the work, which is due to continue until September 2011, and now a special website has been set up to keep families informed ( ). The smells are being released from underground as contaminated soil is dug up.

Air quality from around the site is being checked daily and the Health Protection Agency has advised that levels of compounds identified so far are "unlikely" to pose a risk to health. Residents can download an "odour log" from South Cambs District Council’s website to keep track of any problems. Cllr Janet Lockwood, who represents Harston and Hauxton on the authority, said a strong northerly wind had pushed the smells towards homes at the start of work.

She said: "There’s no doubt the site has to be cleaned up because otherwise it would be a risk to the River Cam. "The work is probably going to go on for the next two years so it’s very important people with health concerns log them, because otherwise they are just hearsay and we can’t do anything with that."

The smells come from the production of pesticides and herbicides over many years and the company which is doing the work for Harrow Estates, Vertase, is using deodorising systems to mask whiffs from excavation and treatment.

Geoff Brighty, the Environment Agency’s area manager, said feedback from neighbours had already led to a change in working practices, and that the smells would probably be intermittent until the work is completed. He said: "It is particularly important that people tell us the exact time and date when they noticed the smells so we can compare this with weather patterns and wind directions to identify when problems might occur and alter working practices if necessary."

The council and Environment Agency have received more than 100 calls about the work since it started, but just a handful reported health complaints. Anyone with health concerns should contact their doctor or NHS Direct. Chris Havergal

Cambridge Evening News 'This could be a catastrophe if things go wrong'