herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Importing rubbish to €500m Poolbeg site still a possibility

Dublin City Council's CPO'd land bank for Poolbeg Incinerator off Pidgeon House Rd yesterday.
Dublin City Council's CPO'd land bank for Poolbeg Incinerator off Pidgeon House Rd yesterday.

The US-based company behind the controversial Poolbeg Incinerator has failed to rule out importing rubbish from other countries to burn at the site.

Covanta's Director of Communications James Regan refused to answer when asked if waste will be shipped to the €500m plant.

Speculation has been rife as to whether the waste-to-energy facility, which will need 600,000 tonnes of rubbish a year to be profitable, will be shipping in waste from abroad.

Speaking to the Herald, Mr Regan said waste would mostly come from the Dublin area, but refused to answer if they would be importing refuse from elsewhere.

Definite

"Waste will predominately come from the Dublin region and also from the Eastern and Midlands region in which the facility is located," he said.

When asked for a second time for confirmation that rubbish will not arrive from other nations, he said that Ireland had enough waste, but failed to give a definite answer.

"There is plenty of waste in Ireland," he said.

"As you may or may not know, Ireland is actually a large exporter of waste," he added.

Mr Regan was then pushed a third time for a definite answer, but offered no response.

The multi-million euro plant is part of the Dublin Waste to Energy project, which is a public-private partnership between the four Dublin local authorities and Covanta.

Speaking to the Herald last night, Ringsend councillor Paddy McCarten said a refusal to answer the question surrounding importing waste was worrying for the local area.

"This question has been posed many times and we still haven't got a comprehensive response," he said.

"The site is a prime location for accepting cargo from the sea, which would probably offer more sustainable returns than moving waste on the road. Covanta are a business, at the end of the day, and a ruthless one at that. They will do whatever is best for their growth.

"But we need answers surrounding this. What was to be a site solely for Dublin has quickly spiralled into a national project. Now we have the possibility of it being used by the international community.

The New Jersey-based company has come under fire in the US recently, where they are facing up to €70,000 in fines for breaching health and safety standards.

The hazards were uncovered at a waste-to-energy facility in Bristol, Pennsylvania, similar to the €500m unit under construction in Dublin.

The US Department of Labour's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspected the plant in October after receiving an employee complaint. The watchdog cited the company for 16 serious violations of workplace safety and health standards.

Toxic

The violations include toxic metals in ash, the dangers of falls or working in confined spaces and electrical and mechanical hazards.

In its findings the OSHA said Covanta "needlessly exposed its employees to the hazards of electrocution, fire, falls, slips and trips, crushing, being trapped or overcome in a confined space, eye injuries and cancer, lung or kidney damage".

In July 2011, it also paid a $400,000 fine after its Connecticut plant sent toxic dioxins into the air. It also paid a dioxin emissions fine in 2009.

The company said it intended to contest the OSHA's findings.

"The health and safety of employees is our priority so we take the recent citations at our Bristol facility very seriously," said a Covanta spokesman.

The establishment of the plant, which will provide power for more than 80,000 homes a year, was an executive decision and was opposed by most city councillors.

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