ANXIOUS residents fear the new £400 million Runcorn energy from waste incinerator could put their health at risk.

Around 100 people attended a meeting on Saturday to protest over the noise, smell, steam and pollution from the plant.

They are also concerned about the fumes from HGVs carrying waste into the site.

They launched a petition calling for more air quality monitors to be installed to measure toxins in Halton.

Within 24 hours, more than 4,000 people had signed up.

People living near the plant say they steam and noise is keeping them awake at night.

Resident Sheena Maddock said: “The noise last night was horrendous. “I've been awake most of the night and I'm losing the will to live.

“Then wagons beeping their horns this morning followed by banging of containers.”

Halton MP Derek Twigg, who called for the incinerator to be shut down last year following two chemical leaks, has pledged his support.

He met Environment Minister Dan Rogerson on Tuesday evening after more than 1,000 complaints had been received.

Mr Twigg said: “I provided him with more evidence of this nuisance.

“He was quite taken aback and has promised to go away and see what he could do.

“People have been complaining about a droning noise disturbing their sleep.

“These are genuine concerns about the vapour, noise and smells.”

Campaigner Darrin Whyte, aged 40, who organised the meeting, said: “People have had their lives turned upside down.

“The stress from the noise, smell and pollution is really worrying.

“People feel trapped. It’s gone from a place where they could sit in their garden to closing doors and windows because it stinks.

“We want to protect the health of our children from these highly toxic contaminants.”

A spokesman for the Runcorn Energy from Waste plant said: “The steam that comes out of the cooling towers is pure condensed water and does not contain any pollutants.

“As an industrial operation, it is to be expected that noises coming from the facility will be heard from time to time by residents.

“This facility is governed by strict planning conditions to ensure that people are not unduly disturbed.

“We have reduced the volume of the horns on the trains and cranes that are used to unload refuse derived fuel.

“The facility is equipped with a number of odour minimisation measures.

“The reception hall for the fuel is kept under negative pressure which is designed to keep any potential odour within the building.”

A Halton Council spokesman said: “The council would like to reassure residents that they have assessed and monitored local air quality for a number of years across the whole of the borough and results indicate that levels of pollution around the Viridor Energy from Waste site fall within government guidelines.

“Residents have raised a number of issues with the council regarding the plant since it was commissioned in March. These are a combination of complaints, opinions and personal observations.”