The Malta Independent 20 October 2019, Sunday

Several quarries refusing to accept construction waste in breach of permit conditions

Neil Camilleri Sunday, 22 September 2019, 11:00 Last update: about 27 days ago

Out of the 35 quarries that are not accepting construction waste, at least 15 are doing so in breach of their environmental permit, The Malta Independent on Sunday has learnt.

In order for a quarry to backfill an excavation void with construction waste, an environmental permit needs to be issued by the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA).

One of the conditions listed in all environmental permits of this type states that no quarry can refuse entry to trucks with construction waste. At least 15 out of 37 quarries with such a permit, however, are either non-operational or are catering exclusively for their own construction projects.

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The condition does not apply if waste is not fit for disposal in a facility permitted to accept inert material. This condition is also without prejudice to other activities permitted on site.

This means that if a quarry is permitted, through the same environmental permit, to, for example, extract material, then it is allowed to refuse the entry of trucks coming in with construction waste.

This is not the case for at least 15 of the quarries with permits. The exact number may actually be greater but information from the ERA website is not sufficient to determine the activities of six of the quarries.

Of the 37, according to the website, two quarries have surrendered their permits, two others have expired permits and three are awaiting renewal.

The refusal of such quarries to accept construction waste comes at a time when the construction industry is facing another 'crisis', as only two quarries are currently receiving such waste.

One of these quarries is situated at Għar Lapsi, while the other is in Mqabba. The former is currently receiving waste from the industry but had, at one point, stopped receiving waste for a couple of days. This quarry is expected to reach its capacity soon.

The Mqabba quarry is reported to be open only at specific times, making it very inconvenient for contractors to use.

When asked by this newsroom about this permit condition, a spokesperson for the environment ministry referred to statements made recently by the minister and the authority, whereby it was stated that all legal considerations are being taken into account, even with respect to the conditions outlined in a number of permits.

"These referred quarries are being examined and considered as part of a wider exercise being conducted by the ERA following the minister's direction in order to ensure compliance and provision of appropriate space for the deposit of such material," the spokesperson said.

Environment Minister Jose Herrera has warned that he could resort to legal action unless the industry sorts out its own mess. He also said that quarries on government land could be requisitioned.

Later he softened his stance, saying the government might take over parts of these quarries with the operators compensated at the agreed price of €8 per tonne. If the operators disagree, they can go before the courts, he had said.

Sources, however, said they could not understand why the minister was speaking about taking such actions when it would be easier and make more sense for the government, or rather the ERA, to enforce the conditions of the permits.

The lack of space has led to illegal dumping of construction waste in the countryside. Just two days ago, it was reported that construction waste by the truckload was illegally dumped in a valley outside Mġarr.

The government also said last week that it would intervene to provide space where construction waste could be dumped but was also looking at the possibility of dumping such waste in designated areas at sea.

Contractors were also shocked when dumping fees were recently doubled overnight, from €8 per tonne to around €15 per tonne 
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