Sunday, 1 July 2012

Dodgy siren and Hazardous waste - the woes of the Isle of Grain

LNG plant on the Isle of Grain
There has been quite a stir on the Twittersphere over recent months with local resident Jack Hope (@jacklhope) bombarding local politicians/politicos for help and about the Health and Safety concerns of the village of Grain and the Liquid Gas plant in their proximity. It is something I have been meaning to look into and right about for sometime but time is constantly flitting past me without me being able to do half the things I want to do - It’s now only 4 weeks until my second child is born!

Any way, now I've got some wind in my sails and a couple of articles from Friday's Messenger, which saves me a lot of research time and FOI requests!

Right first off the Siren.

Now as I understand it, there was a lot of pressure from residents, led by Mr Hope, for a warning system for the villagers in case there was an emergency at the Gas plant. Although the chances of there being a problem at the plant are exceptionally low there are indeed concerns for the villagers who live in close to the plant.
The fact that should there be a major incident the residents sit under a blast or gas radius, there's only one road onto the island etc...

That's by the by though and the Council Health and Safety committee has looked into it and I do not know enough to add to the war of words and opinions on this matter so I shan't attempt to.

What can be said is that the Council promised to install it last September and this week it was tested, three loud blasts were sounded.

One minor *cough* snag was that it wasn't audible across the whole area!

Parish Councillor Chris Buckwell (con) said; I spoke to two or three villagers, one of whom didn't hear it
Nor did the local Primary school.

Councillor Mike O'Brien, respected head of Community Safety who was part of a Council team present for the test is quoted as admitting it was Work in progress and We had a whole team of officers out there investigating it and once we have sat down in the cold light of day and looked at the results properly we will know where to go next

The Siren cost £24,000 and as Councillor O'Brien says [It] wasn't legally necessary but I thought it was a good reassurance for the residents. My firm belief is the residents of Grain have absolutely nothing to fear.

I would like to remind Mike; somewhat cheekily that White Star line said the same thing about the Olympic class liners. It was considered that the safety measures in the design were sufficient enough to withstand any collision "likely" to occur and that they had the Legally required amount of lifeboats and a few extras. Cue an Iceberg and the Titanic.
What I mean is, when it comes to disasters it doesn't matter what safety measures are put in! Some one should have looked at the design specs before it was implemented and questioned if it was loud enough. Still, I'm sure its being looked at now.

Next up, a hazardous waste dump?

The Development Company Peel is in the early stages of proposing a 120 acre site right next to the village of Grain. This is not the first time that such a site has been proposed and Parish Councillor Chris Buckwell defeated the last one. Things are different now of course...

The last Government changed the rules of such building schemes saying that if it was of National importance it could over rule elected officials and locals... Well that's not democracy or respecting one's citizens. Good Job Labour.

Unelected planning inspectors will make the decision instead of Medway councillors. We're very disappointed about that. Says Cllr Buckwell.

The site itself well deal with cleaning Industrial Gas burners, using specially created bacteria to eat pollutants, soil cleansing and other measures but will not handle hospital or radioactive waste. There is also an agreement with the company that they will fully consult with the residents at every stage of the process. Ultimately though it will be up to the inspectors rather than the elected Council.

Although it is to be a wide open process and with the company giving exhibitions to the Villagers I would trust that should they truly oppose the site stringently with good cause that it would not go ahead.
Though I would strongly suggest to the people of Grain, Mr Hope and Cllr Buckwell - look at the Localism Act. An awesome bit of Liberal Democrat inspired legislation that gives local neighbourhood groups the power to fight such moves and Councils. I'm not overly clear on the details, as I said at the beginning Time is escaping me but seriously guys... take a look... it may help.


Gas leak warning siren seen - but not always hear - By Dan Bloom, p 21, Medway messenger 29-6-12

Village earmarked for a SECOND hazard-waste dump - By Dan Bloom, p 11, Medway Messenger 29-6-12


  1. I do have some sympathy with the villagers' plight; though being realistic I can see (and a look at the aerial view of Grain and beyond shows this very clearly) that it is a tiny village tucked away in the corner of what is (and obviously has been for many years) a vastly bigger industrial area.

    Even Sheerness, just across the water from Grain, is considerably more significant than Grain village.

    Therefore anyone moving or staying there has to be prepared to accept this reality, just as would be the case if one moved to or willingly stayed living in or right next to a similarly large-scale industrialised area. I remember living near a pub' once, and that has helped to focus my own thinking on such matters.

    In a sense, the village of Grain is in the 'wrong' place, with no other way to go except through this landscape, simply because one runs out of land in all other directions. Even so, I wonder whether a northern road heading toward Allhallows might be a feasible alternative route out in case of necessity one day.

    Perhaps that might be a sensible policy to pursue and argue for in a constructive manner.

    The confrontational and, frankly, unhelpful approach I have witnessed by one or two campaigners to date is not going to oil the wheels of any kind of solution, and the village could do itself a big favour by finding someone better suited to enabling a solution rather than putting up avoidable barriers.

  2. Good write up as always Chris………just a couple of notes to add to clarify on some things!
    I have added two comments….one re the siren and one re the location of Gas plant…… (I do tend to keep typing and ran out of characters!!)
    People often say to us in Grain…”That gas plant has been there for years…what are you worried about?”…….and the Grain LNG leaflet states….
    .”We have been operating at Grain for 30 years without an accident…” Let me just note this. 2005 the gas terminal consisted of 3 small storage tanks – which, when looking at the worst case scenario….wouldn’t affect the village.
    Then, in 2008, in expanded massively…and over half the village was encompassed in the PIZ zone (public info zone)……….its definition….PIZ is determined by the CA (COMAH Regulation 14(2)) as “being an area in which, in the opinion of the CA, persons are liable to be affected by a major accident occurring at the establishment”, this zone is determined by the inventory and nature of the hazardous materials on site. It is set on the basis that people outside it are not at immediate significant risk from major accidents, although they could be if the accident escalates.”
    Then, in 2010, due to an additional pipeline being installed, the PIZ zone grew even larger and encompassed the entire village. When you purchase a house in Grain, you are not informed that you are in the ‘PIZ or Hazard zone’.
    I purchased my house in 2000, surrounded by industry. (I grew up in Allhallows so always knew of the surrounding industry), yet at that time – none of the industry surrounding put the village in the ‘hazard zone’.
    Those who have bought houses since we have been placed in this zone, are not told so when buying it. So, whilst we can see the industry, and it has always been there, the possible effects to the village in an offsite incident are relatively new…and worryingly have increased massively over the last couple of years. We have one more pipeline being built now and talks of a further tank being built that are BIGGER than the ones already here. (Which by the way are each bigger than the size of the Albert Hall). If the gas site continues to increase, what happens to the village then?
    So why all the shouting and concern over a suitable siren for villagers.
    Two years ago we posed questions to a big portion of the village. Qu. How would you know if there was an incident at the gas plant? What would you do? What do you teach your children to do? Would you collect your children from school etc?
    NO-ONE knew what to do, how we would be told, many would go out and collect kids from school and of course many would try to leave the village…….
    So, what do we know?
    • It is a legal requirement under COMAH that there must be a SUITABLE system in place to ensure that all residents within the PIZ zone are aware of what to do in an incident so that they can and act as required.
    • We know that in the event of an incident we have to ‘get indoors to safety as quickly as possible and close all doors and windows’ ……(A point which cll Mike Obrien reiterated in the Oct 2011 public meeting ….minutes available)
    • Before the siren (and in fact up until now….as the siren still cannot be heard), the system of getting 1700 residents, plus visitors, contractors etc….incl children out playing, the elderly, disabled etc…..was ‘ police to use loud hailer, door knocking etc’……..does this sound like a guaranteed suitable system to ensure all residents ‘get indoors to the nearest building as quickly as possible’……….noting also that the closest police station is 20 mins away?

    So – we in the village don’t WANT a siren…..its not fair that we should HAVE to have it….but, if it is all we have to give us some sort of SUITABLE warning, surley it should have been installed and tested and working – right back in 2010 when the Hazard Zone grew to encompass all of the village??

    1. Lastly….the location of us residents and the gas plant….

      Note In a village and council meeting in Sept 2011 we were told outright by Medway council that ‘An Evacuation Road is not an option, as ‘we do not evacuate….we go indoors’.
      The issue of the location of the gas plant has been raised and ‘cries of help’ passed on to Mark Reckless, our MP, due to its flawed location. It is located at the end of one single carriageway road, a road which is prone to accidents which can cause road closures to last for hours, meaning emergency services have no way of accessing the large gas plant, or the village behind it.
      Medway Council are fully aware of the dangers of this road, as they have committed millions to try to make the A228 safer, a road, which has claimed more than 30 lives in 20 years.
      The ‘emergency off-site plan’ which would be used in the event of incident at the gas plant, which could affect surrounding industries, the road or the village, is co-ordinated by Medway Council.
      The plan details how the emergency services would be first at the scene, supervising the situation, controlling the people, closing the roads etc. Yet, those who live here, have worked out here or just driven out to Grain, know of the one, very long road, leading to the industrial site and the village. And, many of us will have sat for hours either caught outside or inside of the village, due to an accident on this road. We know, that if this road is closed off, vehicles are unable to get through. (Hence our reliability on Air ambulance for emergencies).
      So, after taking this matter to the CEO of the Health and Safety Executive, the final response, received via Mark Reckless;
      “As HSE have advised you on previous occasions these are not areas in which HSE can assist you further. ……your questions are best answered by Medway Council”.
      Under regulations, Medway Council are legally obliged to ensure the off-site plan:
      • contains and control incidents so as to limit damage to people, the environment and property;
      • implements the measures necessary to protect people and the environment from the effects of major accidents;

      Do Medway Council have a back-up plan, or is this something that would be just ‘left to chance’ in the hope that an incident never happens?
      Doesn’t really seem fair that the safety of 1700 residents should be simply ‘left to chance’.
      So, for the final time, the question has been directed to Medway Council….
      Without the emergency services at the scene, preventing escalation of an issue, preventing panic, co-ordinating the situation, how will the off-site plan work?
      I, personally, have approached this in a formal, polite, factual way…..
      And yes, you’ve guessed it – still no suitable answer from Medway Council!

  3. Just a follow-up: a tweet aimed at me today illustrates my final point above far more eloquently than I ever could, especially in light of the (far more valuable) preceding two comments.

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