Poolbeg incinerator ‘war of words’: a useful safety valve for Minister

The latest ‘war of words’ between Minister John Gormley and City Manager John Tierney, each dissing the other’s report, is serving a useful safety valve for the Minister – as the plant will be located in Ringsend slap bang in the Minister’s constituency.   At least he can show his constituents he can stand up to the City Council. 

But I can’t see him being able to stop the project at this stage, a contract has been signed and all the relevant permissions in law have been granted.

When I was on Dublin City Council the issue of the proposed incinerator was an ongoing item for discussion.  My position was that plant would be over capacity and in the wrong location for transport reasons. 

I remember vividly the day the Assistant City Manager Matt Twomey announced the agreement of the contract for the Incinerator, it was on June 13th 2007, the day the Green Party were in the Mansion House debating entering Government with Fianna Fáil. 

 To this day I don’t know if this was an amazing co-incident or if the contact was being signed to make sure it was done and dusted before the Green Party and Fianna Fáil formed a Government.

In my opinion the Greens have excellent waste management policies, and its a pity they did not get some hard commitments on waste and halting the incinerator as a pre-condition in any Programme for Government.  In 2007, existing Government policy was to build eight incinerators in the Republic, the new FF/Green Government did not rescind this position.

I know I’m going back over old ground here, but for the local residents and the Irish taxpayer this plant may prove to be extremely costly.

There are real concerns over the impact this incinerator will have on the health of the local population. Air quality levels in the area will deteriorate with the amount of traffic going to and from the incinerator plant.  Furthermore I believe there was not an adequate assessment of the impact of the development on human health, (this may make the EPA decision to grant a waste licence illegal under EU law).

In the Green Party submission to the oral hearing on the waste licence, the Green Party team, that included Claire Wheeler, Ciarán Cuffe TD, and myself, showed that the plant would lead to greater air pollution in the immediate area, and that there would not be enough residual waste for this incinerator which was supposedly needed to deal with waste from the Dublin Region.

Now that Dublin City and County Councils can no longer control waste collection licences there is no guaranteed supply, in that waste collectors can decide where they wish to dispose of the waste.  Once they comply with EU law, they cannot be forced to deal exclusively with the Poolbeg Plant.

The Company contracted to operate the incinerator has an agreement with Dublin City Council which guarantees that a minimum amount of waste will be provided by the Dublin region to make the deal profitable to the operators. This is a mistake. At the very least any incinerator should be run as a civic amenity and not for profit.

The company running the plant have now confirmed that they will have to source waste from outside the Dublin Region, and I predict that this will have to include forms of waste that should be recycled or eliminated in the first place.

The other story here is the unwillingness to introduce limits for unnecessary and non-biodegradable packaging. Looking at reducing the amount of waste we produce has to be core to any waste management policy.

Read my submission to the EPA Oral Hearing on the Waste Licence here.


11 thoughts on “Poolbeg incinerator ‘war of words’: a useful safety valve for Minister

  1. Brian Greene

    Is the problem not that the plant will be under utilized and not “plant would be over capacity”

    The ESRI report says what its sponsors want it to say. I saw an ESRI environmentalist on France 24, my gawd that was an eye opener. The kind that hate wave and love nuclear!

    Race against waste was a con job. It was to tax us more & more, we are net recipients of packaging we would rather not have. We could return it to business if were not for the Repak scam.

    Waste by volume has risen per head since 2003. We have a green bin service twice a month now. Still full twice.

    As the courts have ruled against a cozy supply for the plant and the city must pay fines it there is a shortfall, i think the waste to energy folk should look at the problems in the model and the govt. should protect dubliners from fines and toxic air. and if we think the wind will blow it out to sea, I worked in East Wall when the new “high tech” sewage plant went live and stinked the capital.
    Action time John, go for the kill. Change Gov. policy.

  2. galwaytent

    ORLANDO: Waste Must be Imported; Recycling Hit by Covanta Contract (Lake County, Florida)

    [Because of Covanta Contract] “…we’re also not promoting recycling in a big way right now.”

    – Waste Boss Daryl Smith, Lake County, Florida. Dec 2009.

    Lake County, Florida, United States. Dec 27, 2009: Because of the feared shortage of local waste and its economic impact on Lake County, the county is desperately trying to import waste to feed its Covanta-incinerator. The contract has already cost Lake County taxpayers about $300 million more than they bargained for. Lawsuits have already lasted 20 years. As they are not stupid why did Dublin City Council choose Covanta?


  3. galwaytent

    CALIFORNIA: Toxic Ash Found In California? Ask Covanta’s Vera Carley
    What will Covanta do with the toxic ash from the proposed Poolbeg Incinerator? Export it to Cork? Spread it over orchards? Feed it to dioxin-free-pigs in Ireland? Or dioxin-free-buffalo in Italy? Of course not.

    Dumping dodgy ash in California is not a good idea. People in California’s land of milk and honey have issues with Covanta’s lovely and environmentally awesome ash [Jan 28, 2010]. They’ve even switched off a power plant in Oroville, 120 miles from San Francisco. Questions from locals are passed off ‘back east’ to a phone number 3,000 miles away, and it seems there is nobody answering during the daytime, never mind at three in the morning. Skype Covanta yourself: 00-1-973- 882-2439.

    If you really really think you’ll get an answer about whether the California ash is good ash or very very bad ash give Vera a call. Start off on a light note with Vera by joking about Billy Leotardo’s ashes up on the mantlepiece in New Jersey. Ask is Covanta better than PG&E. Ask about Covanta’s web site highlighting environmentally friendly business practices. Then ask about San Francisco’s Farmers Market and the ash in the California orchards.

    Vera Carley, Covanta Energy
    00-1-973- 882-2439


  4. galwaytent

    CANADA- Stinky Covanta Deal
    Orono Weekly Times Editorial

    (Orono is Fifty miles from Toronto)

    July 8, 2009

    Covanta deal stinky

    It wasn’t long after the Region of Durham announced that Covanta Energy, a company based in New Jersey, was selected as the company to build and operate the proposed energy from waste facility that its sordid history also came to light.

    A web search of Covanta Energy quickly reveals a history of complaints and fines for unsafe labour practices such as violating federal labour law at more than 50 locations across the US, and toxic emissions exceedances. And these are just the recent violations.

    There was another host of violations which occurred prior to 2002 when the company filed for bankruptcy protection, from which they emerged in 2004.

    At the June 24th Regional Council meeting, a representative of the Utility Workers of America informed councillors that on a number of occasions, Covanta was fined for violations of air pollution laws from state environmental authorities in several cities.

    On April 2nd of this year, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) cited four other serious violations against Covanta, including, “maintaining electrical equipment with duct tape and cardboard” and “storing combustible acetylene cylinders next to oxygen cylinders.”

    In June of this year, OSHA issued new citations against Covanta for serious violations of federal safety rules at its waste incinerator in Rochester, Massachusetts, including an accumulation of fly ash on energized 208-volt electrical equipment, exposing workers to electrical hazards.

    In May of this year, the U.S. Labour Board issued complaints against Covanta and its subsidiaries, challenging numerous illegal rules maintained by Covanta in its employee manuals.

    In September 2008, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection found Covanta had exceeded the allowable emission rate of dioxins and furans at its Pittsfield incinerator by nearly 350 percent. It was further cited for failing to report other air quality violations at the same facility in January, February and March of 2008.

    At a recent public meeting, a Covanta representative explained that many of the complaints against the company are a result of one of the labour unions taking a very combative stance against the company. Workers at the Covanta incinerator in Rochester voted in May 2008 for union representation. Covanta has yet to establish a collective agreement for those workers.

    Whatever the reason, the picture is quite clear, the Region of Durham has entered into a long-term contract with a company that has very poor environmental and labour standards. Covanta’s mission statement, taken from its web site, claims that in pursuing its mission of satisfying its clients’ waste disposal needs, Covanta will employ outstanding people with the highest ethical standards.

    Earlier this year, Covanta hired Clarington’s former mayor John Mutton to lobby the Regional government on their behalf. This was the mayor who was ousted in the last election under a cloud of suspicion stemming from charges for allegedly assaulting his wife.

    At the end of the trial, the judge did not find Mutton guilty as the testimony given by his wife and two daughters was inconsistent with the video taped testimony they gave police during the police investigation. The former mayor, who had no professional credentials when he left office in 2006, now includes a ‘BSc.’ and an ‘eMBA’ behind his name. It is obvious these credentials did not come from any legitimate degree-granting institution. The former mayor may have many outstanding qualities, but from our experience they do not include high ethical standards.

    The business case for the proposed incinerator prepared for the Region in May 2008, put a price of $198 million on the cost of constructing the facility. The construction cost of the winning bid from Covanta was for $238 million. At the last Regional Council meeting, the cost quoted had risen to $272 million. We are already $50 over budget and we aren’t even near putting the shovel in the ground yet.

    There was a crisis-mode mentality around finding a solution to Durham’s garbage management issue when, in 2006, Michigan state officials decided to close their border to Ontario garbage in 2010.

    Under the deal with Covanta, the residual ash from the incinerator will be disposed of by Covanta at its landfill facility in New York State. It will also provide interim landfill for our waste at its New York facility until it gets the incinerator up and running.

    While Covanta officials may be able to explain away some of their reported environmental and labour violations, there are just too many citations to leave them with a lily-white reputation in the garbage industry. One can’t help but sense there is a whole lot more than garbage that stinks around this deal.

    Orono Weekly Times not available online. Subscription info:
    $38.09 + $1.91 GST = $40.00 per year, 48 issues annually.

    Orono Weekly Times
    5310 Main St., P.O. Box 209
    Orono, ON L0B 1M0

    email: oronotimes@rogers.com
    Phone/Fax: 00-1-905-983-5301

  5. Green Party Member

    Bronwem, why don’t you tell us about why incineration is an option for Local Authorities in the first place? Wasn’t it Brendan Howlin who insisted that ‘Energy Recovery’ be included as a waste management option in the Waste Management Act, 1996, while he was Minister for the Environment?

    If you think dealing with the various Hostages to Fortune that the Greens left in their wake was a bit of bind, you’re going to love being in Government with Labour.

    1. Bronwen Post author

      Green Party Member, your email used to send this post is info@greenparty.ie, so I suppose you are a staff member as well as a Green Party member. Incineration as an option is not in itself a bad thing. Exporting waste is unsustainable, and we do need incinerators for hospital and animal waste. When I visited Stockholm with a delegation from Dublin City Council we looked at an area in the city called Hammerby. They had a closed waste management loop, which included a facility for processing human waste and incinerating other waste. The energy was all then circulated as district heating. These waste plants were small and designed for the local area only. Another factor in Stockholm was the amount of returnable packaging, and the level of civic involvement at pre-planning state, and the level of trust in local authorities!

      Regarding your statement on ‘hostages to fortune’, I expect you are referring to the challenges of coalition government and what a Government can actually achieve during a five-year term in office. I joined Labour because I want to be a member of the Labour Party because of their policies; but also because they will be better equipped to be effective in Government. And yes I agree and understand that it is difficult in Government. I did not leave the Green Party because I didn’t understand the concepts of loyalty, compromise or achieving realistic objectives. Indeed my five years on Dublin City Council involved compromise and realism. And I would argue that during my long membership of the Green Party I was always seen as a moderate (perhaps excepting my support for gender quotas to achieve more women in decision making, which didn’t have leadership support). I left the Green Party because of the policy direction being taken by the Parliamentary Party (economic and social) and also because I knew that all resources within the party would be directed towards protecting the Parliamentary Party to the detriment of the party’s long-term development. When I resigned from the party last year I listed the policy issues that the party had so strongly championed in opposition, and how these issues were abandoned immediately on entering Government, a more measured approach would have been more honest, but that may not have gotten the TDs elected in the first place.

  6. Carol

    Dear Bronwen:

    Yea I know that there is an apparent aura of complacency here amongst the Public at Large over this Incineration Plant fiasco in the Ringsend area and it is apparently one which has its history cast in blood almost everywhere.
    There are indeed fundamental inconsistencies with the project about which You and others as well as the Leader of the Labour Party have noted. They come down to two summary issues:

    (i) is the incineration offering environmentally acceptable?
    (ii) is it affordable?

    In the first instance there is no doubt in some people’s eyes that there is no conclusive proof that incineration is safe environmentally. How do we know this? Simply put, whenever there has been a ‘concern’ – both environmentally and health wise action is taken to remedy the failings! Now that in itself is most interesting since by definition the only way to rectify something is after the event. That being the case so it is for incineration. Progressively over the years tighter and tighter restrictions have been placed to deal with odour smoke particulates dust chemical emissions and ash disposal. Inevitably all of these have arisen after an incident! Inevitably all have resulted in additional costs to the purchaser.

    We as a Nation therefore should be cautious here as we are looking at our own children and children’s children here. Remember the well-known saying “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” translated from The Great Law of The Iroquois Confederacy. We must be cautious for our very progeny is at risk here.

    Is there a safer alternative? Well certainly there is and if you would pardon me for alerting you then I will address that here. Various consulting engineering groups have stated that for the Dublin area the option of increasing recycling rates and then using a combination of separation of the organic material to make the biofuel Ethanol for transport is by far the best option. Why? Simply because the later part does not need to be fully implemented simultaneously with the first, None the less the overall project could be completed within three years from start. More importantly (if we use what was also stated in the University of Limerick) the procedures for making fuel grade Ethanol for transport from the residual biodegradable left-overs after recycling is completely environmentally acceptable. it is odour free and emits no airborne wastes. May I draw your attention to an article presented in the Institution of Chemical Engineers in 2008 in March wherein the journal The Chemical Engineer it gives details of such a process in the paper ”Under Pressure Under ground.” Have a look at this and then follow through the links. More recently there was a response article I gave to the EurActiv (EU) portal of news about the same issue.

    In the second part the question of affordability. All Incineration projects are expensive. They cannot be adjusted to accommodate any new requirements to deal with changing legislation. This project in Ringsend has already been stated in the USA Press as costing over US $400 MILLION (or €350 MILLION). We already know that as a result of missing details there will be further costs associated with the disposal of the Residual Toxic Ash obtained from the Incineration Hearth and from the Dust Traps in the Chimney. This has already been quotes as costing an additional Capital Cost for a Land Fill site of in €100 MILLION and a cost for disposal of the residue of €130-00 per tonne which if that relates to 15% of the input waste stream of -say- 600,000 tonnes per annum will be €11,700,000 per year above all the other quoted figures. However more important than this argument is the fact that from 2017 with the adoption of already agreed additional emission controls to deal with POPS (Persistent Organic Pollutants) under the Stockholm Convention it will be necessary to add additional plant on to an incineration facility to deal with this. It should also be borne in mind that this is in addition to that needed to address PM10 (Particulate Matter) or fine Dusts which was adopted in 2010 and post the original pricing of the Incineration Plant. These latter two items were recently priced as an addition on another incineration plant for China where the additions to a facility that was previously priced at US $300 million came to a staggering US $100 million extra! Now you see the point I am making!

    In the comparison given in the paper referenced above I gave what was repeated to me as the equivalent for treating the equivalent of a facility to handle the same quantity of residuals for Dublin at Ringsend as being less than a half of the Ringsend programme. Furthermore the best part was that the treatment fee could be limited to (that is made no greater than €30-00 per tonne of waste for treatment and that after 5 years that charge could be dispensed with.

  7. Karel

    I find it staggering that the TD Mr J Gormley is looking at the incineration plants in Denmark or Sweden to see whether they are suitable for Dublin and Ireland. This is not a question of being environmentally suitable any more it is a question of We cannot afford it.
    Mr J Tierney the Engineer for Dublin is quite happy to see the Tax Payers in Ireland being drained of money to build this white elephant of a financial monstrosity being built knowing full well that it won’t affect him whatsoever. We are in a financial problem in Ireland and every means should be taken by the Government to reduce the burden of taxes on the tax-paying public. This project costing over €6,000 million during the next 30 years could be reduced to one that would not cost the public anything after just 5 to 7 years if it was changed to one that could make the biofuel ethanol. Just look at the comparison. The as yet to be built incineration plant will (at the current time) cost over €400 million to build and that is without the costs for the land, and without the costs for the new land fill to be used to contain the waste disposal of the toxic residues left after the incineration and the scrubbing of the nasties in the chimney stacks (€200-00 per tonne for the 20 to 25% quantity of residues left after incineration equates to an annual cost extra of €24 million unaccounted for as well as the purchase and setting up of the land fill site to house this toxic substance and to treat it for a further €100 million of capital costs already admitted in papers sent to the DOE and an annual manning cost of 40 men and machines and the likes that will equal a further €million per year!)
    Now’s the time Mr Taoiseech B Lenihan and the TDS in Government the Minister of Finance and the Ministers of the Environment TDs Eamonn Ryan and John Gormley to stand fairly and squarely with the people here. Forget about the Environmental issues (as bad as they are) WE CANNOT AFFORD THIS POOLBEG INCINERATION PROJECT! The only beneficiaries to date of this have been R P S Consulting (formerly M C O’Sullivan) who has reaped fees after fees without recourse to estimates and without recourse to redress under the European Union in the Services’ Directive and their cronies from Cowie Consult in Denmark who have equally made a financial killing in this programme. To date these two companies have made over €83 million from the Tax Payers in Ireland over this fiasco of a project which nobody wants. By the time it is finished (assuming that they get their way and incineration is still adopted) their fees will reach almost €150 million!
    How strange it is that no one has noticed that Cowie Consult (working with R P S) also lives in Denmark. Is it not strange too that they live in the same district of Denmark. Is there a link between them that needs looking in to? Isn’t DONG Energy the incineration company partly owned by the Government of Denmark? All these things need looking in to.
    We as tax payersin Ireland cannot afford this maladministration of this waste programme to continue for at every turn in the path additional costs are uncovered. We as tax payers will be paying over the odds for a project that can be done more efficiently and with none of the side effects listed in the annals of incineration.

    1. Emmett

      Karel, all the money in the world is useless if there is no world in which to spend it. so environmental issues are important.
      People are always going to complain about money and cost etc. but what are we to do about our waste? continue with all the illegal dumping around the country, the illegal and uncontained burning of waste? sure why not just keep filling up those landfill sites? infact, why dont we make a deal and use ireland as a global dump site? how novel. Then every citzen of ireland could get a fraction of the settlement and you wont have to worry about money and how much we can afford and cant. splendid.

  8. Emmett

    Aside from the incinerator being potentially oversized, I dont see a problem with it. Capturing energy, decreasing MSW by 70%, containing harmful noxious and dioxide compounds. sounds good.
    I highly doubt Dublin waste stream will be sufficient for this 600,000 tonne MSW incinerator but what about the possibility of importing waste from Britain or france once quantities make is efficient to do so? realistic?

  9. Karel Yurian

    Emmett: You actually miss the point.

    Carol immediately before you stated what is the reality. Building a facility here based upon accepting the recovered waste (after recycling) to make the renewable fuel ethanol is a well-tried and trusted procedure dating back to the 19th Century and used extensively in the 10th Century before Oil became king! Henry Ford used it! The UK used it in the years that ran up to the North Sea Oil. The USA used it on paper and wood. The Finland Swedes the UK Brazil Canada USA Malta China VietNam and many others are all using it now. They do not get the publicity about it.

    Turning this part of the waste in Dublin to the renewable fuel ethanol will cost around €105 million (not the €400 million we hear of banded around in the Poolbeg programme. I state it again….around €105 million. So why is it that the Government is so fixed in its way?

    They claim that what they are doing is cast in stone under previous legislation enacted by another Government in office in the Dail! What nonsense: if that was the case in Germany when the Jewish Pograms were enacted under the Final Solution the act would still apply today. This attitude by the Government is a cynical piece of obfuscation. I find it absolutely inescapable that an Engineer such as that in Dublin Corporation is defying the tenets of his mandate to be a practising Engineer proposing and maintaining a proposal for a project which is both Environmentally Unacceptable and an Affront to Logic of being Totally Unaffordable. It is also promulgated by RPS and their advising manager P J Rudden who continues to espouse the same trifle of nonsense about it being the best way forward. This is equally nonsense from the Public’s eye and viewpoint since his only interests are Fees Fees and More Fees for his company. RPS as a Consulting Engineer are in cahoots with Incineration Companies because they are awarded Fees at least 6% and more likely 10+ of the Capital Costs of the Building the plant. Look at how much they have been paid over the past ten years €30 million? HardlY? Their Fees are already €45 million and most of that was without tendering as extensions to existing remits. No wonder the EU procurement directorate are gunning for Dublin something is suspicious here. And as if the suspicion wasn’t founded why was it that RPS managed to get one of their cosy pals in to the Bord Na Planeala (not sure of spelling) so as to approve the way forward for bypassing the rules on a full Environmental Impact Assessment for the proposed incineration plant.

    You must now be aware that with the stringent budget reduction profiling going on under the Taoiseech’s (latter day) acceptance of a tighter control of Government expenditure that the Incineration project must be stopped now.

    John Gormley TD has been noteworthy as being fully out-spoken in saying that he is anti-incineration. So he lives in the area: what has that got to do with it? Well as a concerned environmental organisation the Green Party is in Government (Ok they may not be after January – February 2011) but prior to being in Government they lobbied very hard against this issue. Without such lobbies around before now we would still have mass kills of Whales, we would not have had any thoughts raised about Smog in London or elsewhere, there would be little concern about using up oil and coal and peat to make electricity and further more any concern over the impact of Man on this Earth would not even configure in people’s agendas at all. This stick-in-the-mud attitude to the notion that Mankind is good for the Earth was shown up with Acid Rain (remember the deforestation of the Norwegian and Swedish Forests caused by Sulphur Dioxide from the UK?)And the need to prevent over-fishing (remember that?) and what about a past historical issue in Minemata Japan (look at the history books for that problem! and remember that as well?) The Green Parties around the World used just to be lobbyists at one stage and their policies became accepted and now they became Main Stream. John Gormley and Eamonn Rayan have been good moderators to this Government in the Dail. Their failing is that there were only a few of them in Government. Had they been 20% of it then their roles would have been different.

    So you say what can be done with the waste? It can be converted to the transport fuel Ethanol after recycling and the reference in Carol note is that she cited a paper written in the UK. But others are saying the same thing. Incineration need not happen and it should not happen. It isn’t needed. It is environmentally a nonsense and creates more problems than it solves. The Dublin problem is too expensive to buy and since we the tax payers are the funders it out to stopped now! Go and ask Professor Michael Hayes at the Carbolea Institute what he thinks…here is his email… Michael.H.Hayes@ul.ie


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