Health fears for Barnstaple gasworks site residents

People living near the former gasworks site at Barbican Close currently undergoing decontamination say fumes are making them ill

FRUSTRATED residents living near a former Barnstaple gasworks say they are in fear for their health as contractors clean up the site prior to redevelopment.

As decontamination continues on the Barbican Close site, in preparation for building 21 homes, several living nearby say they have been affected by dizziness, nausea, sore throat, stinging eyes and tiredness.

It has been a source of controversy since owners National Grid applied for planning permission from North Devon Council, granted earlier this year.

Residents, several of whom had objected to the application, were prepared for disruption but Julia Daunt, chairman of the Barbican Residents Association, said they had not expected to feel unwell.

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She said four people, including herself, had already been to see doctors because of their symptoms and she knew of 12 people in total who were complaining of feeling unwell.

“The most common symptom is a sore throat, headaches, nausea and a funny taste in the mouth,” she said.

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“Some have complained of feeling dizzy, plus sore eyes like you would not believe. This has been happening since work started. I was given a 100 per cent reassurance our health would not be affected.”

According to residents, the intruder is a “smoky tar” smell, preceded a couple of weeks ago by a strong rotten egg sulphur-like smell.

Rachel Theobold, an ex-nurse who lives in Victoria Road, told the Gazette she had been suffering from a chronic runny nose, headaches, tiredness and a constant nasty taste in her mouth.

“I have been seeing my doctor but they can’t explain it,” she said.

“My husband Lesley has had a reoccurrence of his asthma, which he had not suffered from in 20 years.”

Pat and Terry Pickard, who live at Chester Terrace, said when the smell was blowing their way, they both suffered from “a dizzy head” and feeling sick.

“I have a horrible tickly cough and congestion,” said Pat, “and I don’t suffer from hay fever.”

Terry said they feared the implications: “It’s what could happen in later years, not so much what’s happening now. If it goes on I will go and see my GP.”

Julia, who lives with partner Paul Fiddian and her mother Jane said they have to close all the doors and windows otherwise the smell makes them feel sick.

Jane said when she went into town the symptoms abated, but returned as soon as she got back: “We were assured from the word go that we could use our gardens, but you can’t put your washing out or mow your lawn – you can’t do anything.”

When permission was granted, conditions set out how contractors Erith would carry out the work, plus measures put in place to ensure it proceeded safely, with monitoring from council environmental health officers.

Martin Smith, senior technical officer at North Devon Council’s Environmental Health department said two complaints had been received from households in the Barbican Road area:

“We have a duty to investigate complaints and we are therefore investigating the latest claims, liaising with National Grid and health professionals. At this stage, we have no evidence to substantiate the allegations being made,” he said.

“There is continuous monitoring in place for dust, noise and volatile organic compounds and this will be in place until work is complete. Environmental health personnel will be making regular visits.

“Due to the nature of the works it is inevitable there will be some odour from time to time, particularly as tarry materials are uncovered, which produce a characteristic odour at low concentrations.”

Mr Smith said to mitigate disruption, work was restricted to 8am-6pm Monday to Friday and 8am-1pm on Saturdays. It is expected to be completed by the end of October.

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