Engineer says firm was not aware of WHO guidelines on incinerator siting


World Health Organisation guidelines for the siting of incinerators were not considered when selecting the proposed location for a large hazardous waste incinerator in Co Kildare, a planning hearing has been told.

At the Bord Pleanala hearing which opened in Maynooth yesterday, Mr Dermot Harte, a civil engineer, said Thermal Waste Management Ltd (TWM) was not aware of the guidelines when the site selection process was undertaken. TWM is appealing the decision by Kildare County Council to refuse permission for a hazardous waste incinerator proposed for the outskirts of Kilcock. Mr Harte, of H.G.L. O'Connor consultant engineers, project managers for the development, claimed that having looked at the guidelines since, TWM had fulfilled them with the exception of a requirement for a public consultation process before submitting a planning application.

They had not looked at the issue of compensation for local residents, as in their view devaluation of adjoining properties would not arise with the development, he said.

When it was put to him by Mr Fintan Hurley, on behalf of North Kildare-South Meath Alliance Against Incineration, that WHO referred to incinerators as "the least wanted of facilities", Mr Harte said incinerators had changed dramatically in recent years "to meet extremely stringent standards that protect people and the environment".

The guidelines stemmed from the 1980s and were in many senses no longer applicable, he said.

Mr Hurley added that the alliance would submit evidence that TWM had not complied with WHO guidelines and draft guidelines on the siting of incinerators under the Basle Convention. On the issue of the level of hazardous waste being generated in Ireland, Mr Harte said more recent figures indicated a much higher requirement than estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has suggested a hazardous waste incineration requirement with a capacity of 15,000 tonnes a year (compared with a 100,000-tonne facility proposed by TWM).

While on first inspection it would appear Cork was the best place to locate the incinerator, it had four thermal facilities attached to pharmaceutical industries. The greatest demand was for "those quantities which are currently shipped abroad", he said.

In 1996, 51,700 tonnes were exported from Ireland, but the latest figures showed 29,200 tonnes of hazardous waste were exported from Dublin local authorities and from Cos Cavan, Kildare, Wicklow and Louth.

When livestock waste, known as specified risk material, and some medical waste was added, it indicated an annual need for thermal treatment of 43,700 tonnes within this region alone. With Dublin local authorities generating two million tonnes of municipal waste a year, it indicated "a virtually guaranteed source of supply".

When Mr Hurley pointed out that Kildare County councillors were saying "Thanks but no thanks" to the incinerator by expressly excluding the thermal treatment option in their waste management plan, Mr Harte said the TWM plant would be available to other counties and nearby local authorities.

Asked if the incinerator would fulfil Bord Pleanala's requirement that there be only "light industry" where it is proposed, Mr Harte said the term related to emissions, and their design had prevented the possibility of harmful emissions arising from the thermal treatment plant.

Mr Julian Scutter, a consultant engineer, of Electrowatt-Ekono UK, said the site selection criteria used for the proposed plant were consistent with accepted international practice.

"The proposed plant would meet stringent environmental standards which would be consistent with standards being reliably achieved elsewhere in Europe," he said.

The proposal to deal with ash arising from incineration by a process known as vitrification would mean the plant would achieve better emission standards than currently in Britain and a number of facilities in Europe, he said.