Brechin rendering plant investigated

Officials are still investigating an incident at a Brechin meat plant, which left one worker fighting for his life and three others ill.

Charles Anderson, 53, was overcome by fumes at the Sacone Environmental meat rendering plant in Brechin, Scotland, on 18 July. He was taken to the high-dependency unit at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee to be treated for severe damage to his lungs.

It is thought that his symptoms were caused by gas inhalation - possibly hydrogen sulphide. Two other employees and a paramedic who treated the workers at the site were also taken to hospital, with irritation to the lungs. All four patients have now been discharged.

The Brechin plant operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, processing animal carcases. It primarily takes animals killed at the Matheson Jess abattoir, situated next to the plant, for gasification. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is investigating the incident, with support from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

"HSE has told Sacone that production can restart once there is an alarm system in place to detect the build-up of gas," said an HSE spokesperson. "Our investigation is continuing and we have sent off gas samples from the site to be tested. We are also awaiting the results of toxicology tests on the workers taken ill at the plant."

Local residents have been concerned about the safety of the plant, which has been issued several enforcement notices, but SEPA has reassured them the matter is in hand. "It is unlikely that there would have been any significant releases outside the site boundary," said SEPA's Colin Anderson.

"SEPA always aims to ensure human health and the environment are protected in the best way possible. It has stressed to the company that they must comply with their permit conditions at all times and officers will be visiting the area regularly."

Sacone Environmental released a statement to local press saying that no definitive conclusions had been reached concerning the cause of the accident and that all recommendations by HSE had been implemented. They confirmed that HSE had given them clearance to recommence operations but that no new waste had been received on-site since the incident.

"The plant was already scheduled for a planned maintenance shutdown from the end of this week until early August," they said. "This planned shutdown has now been brought forward to begin immediately. Sacone Environmental will only recommence operations when the management consider it is prudent to do so."

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