AN ENVIRONMENT watchdog fears a town is in danger of becoming a dumping ground for the world's waste.

Friends of the Earth Hartlepool co-ordinator Iris Ryder is calling for more information on plans to build a £2m waste treatment plant.

The proposal for the town's Seaton Meadows is being put forward by Alab Environmental Services, a division of Able UK, which wants to scrap 13 derelict US support ships - the so-called Ghost Fleet.

The legacy left by past waste disposal in the town means Mrs Ryder is not allowed to grow vegetables in the contaminated soil of her garden and can only cultivate flowers in tubs.

She said: "You have to consider Hartlepool has got the highest rate of cancers in the country, so what we should be doing is cleaning up the area rather than be a dumping ground for the world's waste."

Alab operations director Ian Fenny said: "The plant we want to develop at Seaton Meadows would treat hazardous wastes to the point where they no longer pose the same hazards to the environment, turning them into consolidates of stable, non-reactive material which can then be disposed of in purpose-built impervious cells.

"This practice is widely used across the EU, but we believe that our proposed new plant is the first of its kind to use the best available techniques."

Mrs Ryder said: "These impervious cells are actually lined holes in the ground. If you put plastic liner round a fish pond and after several years it leaks, you can dig it out again and start again. If a toxic site leaks, you can't do that."

Alab has applied to the Environment Agency for a pollution prevention and control permit.

If granted, the permit will allow the company to store and treat substances.

People have until October 28 to put their objections to the agency in writing.