Monday 16 November 2009

Poolbeg capacity 'should be halved'

The Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA) today claimed the proposed Poolbeg incinerator was "grossly oversized" relative to waste needs and called for an urgent review of the project.

The IWMA was releasing the findings of an independent report on the facility it commissioned.

Minister for the Environment John Gormley responded to the report's findings by saying the State was facing a potential cost of €18 million for 20 years, if there was not enough waste to supply the incinerator.

Minister Gormley said he had requested an examination of the financial implications of the contract.

"The report firmly establishes that the facility is grossly oversized and goes on to clearly demonstrate that 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 for residual waste management," a statement from the IWMA said.

The proposed Dublin City Council (DCC) incinerator, in which Covanta and Dong Energy are commercial partners, would be one of the largest such facilities in Europe having an annual capacity to treat almost 600,000 tonnes of waste for a population of approximately one million people, the IWMA said.

"Given that we produce on average 750kg of waste per head per annum this means that DCC and Covanta/Dong Energy will have to burn almost 80 per cent of our waste arising in Dublin to fill the plant, something that no other developed society does."

The IWMA said the proposed incinerator threatened to bring a decrease in composting and recycling rates in the Dublin region, a "very anti-competitive" market with one large operator; and the negative environmental impact arising from the need to transport waste to the facility from other cities across Ireland to supply the facility's capacity.

Brendan Keane of IWMA said: "The current proposed Covanta/Dong Energy Poolbeg incinerator is so oversized it will cause stagnation in the waste sector, lead to significant job losses, and make significant investment to-date obsolete."

"The IWMA sees Dublin City Council's move to force all waste arisings in the region into the plant via the waste permit regulations as anti-competitive.

"Contracts of this type would normally have a 'scaling clause' which would allow the parties to reduce the size of the proposed facility without the need for a new tender or revision of the contract," he said.

Mr Keane said the plant's size could be reduced without going back for full planning.

"At a time when money is scarce, it makes no sense to commit valuable public funds to this development. The IWMA believes that the Poolbeg incinerator as proposed is unsustainable from all angles."

The IWMA is seeking an urgent review of the proposed development by a Government appointed independent inspector on foot of the report.

However, Dublin City Council chief engineer Michael Phillips said he disagreed with the assessment provided by the operators.

Mr Phillips said the city’s waste management plan envisaged 59 per cent of material being dealt with by recycling, 16 per cent going to landfill and around 25 per cent being treated at an incinerator.

This plan had been in place for 10 years and were the council to draw up a new waste management plan today it would use the same criteria, Mr Phillips told the programme. He said the council had to look at the longer term needs of the city and average out short-term peaks and troughs in demand.

Mr Phillips said there was a small amount of scale back in the plan, meaning the size of the facility could be reduced, but said it was not equivalent to 50 per cent.

Minister for the Environment John Gormley has campaigned against the 600,000-tonne capacity incinerator, which is in his constituency and is due to open in 2012.

The Minister is set to publish his international review of waste management policy, and this is expected to recommend limits on waste going to landfill or incineration.

The plant, which would be one of the largest municipal waste incinerators in Europe, was granted a licence from the Environmental Protection Agency last December following the receipt of planning permission from An Bord Pleanála in November 2007.

Irish Times

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