Work begins on construction of Poolbeg incinerator
Residents opposing Covanta plant in Ringsend to march on Dáil tomorrow
People protesting against the Poolbeg incinerator plan in 2010. The project has had numerous financial, legal and political obstacles in the past seven years. Photograph: Eric Luke
Work has begun on the €600 million Poolbeg waste incinerator in Dublin, seven years after the facility was granted permission by An Bord Pleanála.
Contractors engaged by Covanta, the New Jersey-based waste firm building and running the plant, have started construction and the facility, which will have the capacity to burn 600,000 tonnes of waste a year, is expected to start operations in the second half of 2017.
The project has hit numerous financial, legal and political obstacles in the past seven years but cleared its final hurdle six weeks ago when it was approved by the National Development Finance Agency and contracts were signed by Dublin city manager Owen Keegan, despite opposition from a majority of city councillors.
In the company’s first interview since then, Covanta’s Matthew Mulcahy head of European development Matthew Mulcahy said it expected to operate the plant at almost full capacity from 2018.
“We will be fairly close to that [600,000 tonnes ] in 2018. This is proven, well tested technology and we have a good feel for how much we will taken in.”
“It will be so big that they are going to have to go outside their planning permission by taking waste from outside the Dublin area for it,” group spokeswoman Frances Corr said.
But Mr Mulcahy said the facility would operate within its permissions, and he said it was the right size.
“Part of the delay in this project has been in answering questions in relation to value for money and if it is sufficiently sized. All these question have been answered...There is a lot of misinformation out there, but there are a lot of tremendous benefits people are not talking about.”
He said the plant would allow Ireland meet its EU obligations to divert waste from landfill and would make a “significant contribution” to the reduction of greenhouse gasses.
The incinerator would generate energy to supply 80,000 homes, 300 jobs were being created in construction, and there would 100 permanent jobs once the plant was operational.
Covanta is to spend €500 million developing the plant. Almost Some €100 million has already been spent by the Dublin local authorities on the project, including €32 million for consultants and €52 million for the site on the Poolbeg peninsula, now worth an estimated €6 million.
The incinerator was first proposed in 1997. There was a brief period of site clearance work in late 2009, but construction could not start because of the failure to secure a foreshore licence from former minister for the environment John Gormley. Delays were also caused by problems securing finance for the scheme, and complaints made to the European Commission that the incineration project was in breach of State aid rules. The project was recently cleared of these complaints.