Incinerator developers pitch for NI waste work

 

INCINERATORS UNDER construction in Poolbeg, Dublin, and Carranstown, Co Meath, could be used to process waste illegally dumped in Northern Ireland, the facilities’ operators have said.

The Government has begun the process of repatriating 250,000 tonnes of Irish household and commercial waste illegally dumped in Northern Ireland six to eight years ago.

Covanta, the developer of the 600,000-tonne incinerator at Poolbeg yesterday said the illegal cross-Border dumping resulted from a failure of the Government’s approach to waste management.

The Government is believed to be facing costs in excess of €36 million for the removal and processing of waste from 20 sites in Northern Ireland at which waste was dumped illegally.

Under an agreement between the Government and the Northern Executive, the full cost of disposing of the waste will be met by the State along with 80 per cent of the cost of removing the waste from Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland authorities will meet the remaining removal costs.

However, a spokesman for Covanta said these huge costs to the State could have been avoided.

“This €36 million burden on the Irish taxpayers is yet another outcome of the failure to put a modern, properly enforced, waste management system in place. That is what the Poolbeg energy-from-waste plant is all about.”

Covanta has been locked in a long-running battle with Minister for the Environment John Gormley, who is opposed to the planned incinerator. Work on the construction of the facility began last December but has been suspended since May.

Covanta said a delay in the approval by Mr Gormley of a foreshore licence for the facility was holding up the project. The firm has recently sought talks with Taoiseach Brian Cowen on the matter.

“When the Government eventually gives the outstanding permit for the Poolbeg plant, and once it is operational, Covanta would be in the market for any residual waste resources that become available to the plant,” the spokesman said.

Indaver Ireland, which is building the State’s first municipal waste incinerator at Carranstown, is also a contender to process waste from the illegal landfill sites.

A spokeswoman said the facility, which will be able to process 200,000 tonnes of waste annually, was due to be operational by September next year and “would be in the market” for any non-hazardous municipal waste taken from the landfill sites.

The removal of waste from the first illegal site in Co Fermanagh to an approved landfill site in Co Donegal begins today. However, the process of remediating all 20 sites is expected to take five years.

All the waste must be brought back to the Republic for processing but it is the Northern Ireland environment authorities who will be deciding which facilities are awarded tenders to process the waste. They would not comment on the tendering process yesterday.

Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday Edwin Poots, Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister, said local authorities and the Irish Government knew that waste was not being dealt with properly and “completely turned a blind eye to it and as a consequence environmental damage has been done in Northern Ireland”.