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Saturday, 30 March, 2002, 14:49 GMT
Toxic waste incinerator closes
The Shanks Chemicals plant at Pontypool
The incineration plant has been dogged by controversy
A controversial waste incineration plant in south Wales is closing with the loss of 50 jobs.

Shanks Chemicals, which owns the plant (formerly known as Rechem), is blaming a change in the market for the decision to shut down.

A protest outside the Shanks plant in Pontypool
Residents claimed it caused pollution

But many local residents are welcoming the end of the plant which dealt with toxic chemicals.

They claim it polluted the area, a claim denied by the operators and not supported by an Environment Agency Wales report.

The company said it has been forced to take the decision to shut its processing works at New Inn, Pontypool.

It points to market conditions and the end of a ten-year contract to deal with animal waste under BSE regulations.

However, 25 administration jobs on an adjacent site will be kept on.

The Shanks Chemicals plant at Pontypool
The plant destroyed toxic waste by incineration

Shanks says that in the short term the incinerator will not be demolished, although it insists it can see no circumstances in which it would be restarted.

The plant has faced long-term local opposition.

Residents formed a campaign group, Keep Your Own Waste, to protest at the plant.

They said it raised levels of pollution in the area, claims always rejected by the operators.

In 1999, the then first minister, Alun Michael commissioned and Environment Agency Wales report in to the plant in 1999.

The report failed to back campaigners claims that the plant was polluting the locality and Mr Michael refused calls for a public inquiry.

Economic decision

The campaign group said the closure is evidence of the progress over the last two years in regulating the waste trade following years of protest.

Shanks insist that its decision is a purely economic one.

The plant opened in 1974 and at its height employed around 120 people.

There has been continued investment in the plant, in the early 1990's around 15m was spent on modernisation.

Protestors opposed to the site say they regret any job losses, however they are delighted that it is to shut.

BBC Wales's Caroline Evans
"The plant has been processing hazardous waste since 1974, one of only three in the country able to destroy toxic PCBs."
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