THE DUBLIN city engineer has rejected claims by Minister for the Environment John Gormley that the taxpayer could face bills of €18 million a year for the next 20 years if the Poolbeg incinerator goes ahead as planned.
The Minister was speaking after the publication yesterday of a report commissioned by private waste contractors which claimed the 600,000 tonne incinerator’s capacity should be halved.
The contract with the incinerator firms Covanta and Dong requires the local authorities to supply 320,000 tonnes of waste annually to the plant. If they do not, they have to compensate the consortium at a rate of €100 for every tonne not supplied.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio yesterday, Mr Gormley said the shortfall in the amount of waste that is likely to be available for incineration could see the council left with a multimillion euro bill every year of the operating life of the plant.
“Even the capacity they have promised to deliver, 320,000 tonnes, again is far too large, if you look at what can be delivered now and into the future it looks as if it could be half of that.
“If that is the case we are looking at a contingent liability and it could run into about €18 million a year for about 20 years. That is something the taxpayer simply cannot afford.”
Mr Gormley also said that because of that potential cost to the exchequer, he had appointed an officer to investigate the financial implications of the contract.
Dublin city engineer Michael Phillips said yesterday the council had not been made aware of any such appointment or investigation. A spokesman later confirmed the Minister had meant to say he would be appointing an investigating officer shortly.
Mr Phillips said the council was planning for the long-term management of the region’s waste. Its plans for the incinerator had been endorsed by An Bord Pleanála and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he said.
If the council was beginning the process of seeking permission for the plant now, it would still seek the same capacity, he said and he did not envisage the council having to pay any compensation to the consortium.
“I do not know where that €18 million figure came from. The Minister or his department did not come to us in relation to any figures.” There would be “more than adequate” waste to fill the 320,000 tonne capacity required by the contract, he said. He added that while the council had not been informed of the appointment of an investigator, it would welcome and “co-operate fully” with any investigation.
The report published yesterday by the Irish Waste Management Association said a facility with a capacity of 250,000 to 300,000 tonnes per annum would be more than adequate to meet Dublin’s requirements until at least 2037.
SLR Consulting Ireland, which conducted the report on behalf of the association, said it surveyed the 19 private waste firms operating in the Dublin region. Fifteen replied to the survey and of those 10 said they did not plan to bring waste to the plant, five said they did not yet know if they would and none said they intended to use the facility.