Debate on waste incineration


Madam, - If Donal Buckley (Head 2 Head, June 11th) had taken the time to attend the recent oral hearing into plans for the proposed Poolbeg incinerator, he might well have been considerably less dogmatic about the benefits of this technology and the proposed location.

He would have learned that incinerators are being closed down all over the US, and that there is only one new incinerator being built in Europe, because the economics of their operation are so unfavourable. He might have been surprised that the "waste to energy" plant, should it be allowed, would most probably increase the cost of waste collection by a factor of three on present figures, which even Ibec might find distressing.

He would have found that the situation regarding harmful discharges is still open to question, partly because it is not possible to measure very low levels of dioxins and because the effects of micro-particulate matter are still under investigation. He would have heard that some German incinerators are having to import waste because recycling has succeeded so well that the waste available no longer has enough calorific value to support the furnaces.

He would have also learned that the proposed 600,000 tonne throughput at Poolbeg would generate 120,000 tonnes of waste, classified as "bottom ash", which would have to be landfilled or shipped abroad for disposal, again incurring shipping costs and a subsidy to the receivers. And his surprise might have increased further when he found it was proposed to erect this "facility" in an aluminium-clad building with a footprint bigger than that of Croke Park, higher than Liberty Hall and with two steel chimneys higher than the Spire - yet Dublin City Council feels it would not damage the amenity value of Dublin Bay!

Truly, it is time the citizens woke up. Both the European and national waste strategies put "reduction" as the key technology for dealing with the waste problem. This, of course, might have some impact on business, which may explain Ibec's stance. - Yours, etc,

MAURICE BRYAN,  Conservation Adviser, Butterfield Park, Dublin 14.

Madam, - Mary O'Leary of Chase (Head 2 Head, June 11th)refers to the appointment of Laura Burke to the board of directors of the Environmental Protection Agency.

I wish to point out that Laura Burke competed in an open competition for the position of EPA director and was interviewed by a committee established under the EPA Act 1992 and 2003. That committee comprises the Secretary to the Government, the Secretary of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the chairperson of the council of An Taisce, the managing director of the Industrial Development Authority, the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women.

To suggest, as the article did, that this committee selected Laura Burke because of her previous employment in the waste incineration industry does a grave disservice to the committee, to Laura Burke and to the EPA. For the record, Laura Burke is a valued member of the EPA board who continues to contribute positively to the agency's work. To avoid any real or perceived conflict of interest, she took no part whatever in the decisions on the licensing of Indaver's waste incinerators. - Yours, etc,

NIAMH LEAHY, EPA Media Relations Officer, Johnstown Castle Estate, Co Wexford.