The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

Selected sites for investment in waste management represent best possible balance - Wasteserv

Tuesday, 19 May 2020, 10:33 Last update: about 10 days ago

The selected sites for Wasteserv's development project in Maghtab represent "the best possible balance," Wasteserv Malta said in a statement when reacting to a request previously made by farmers for different sites to be used.

Wasteserv was responding to a report that read that a group of Magħtab farmers proposed a number of alternative sites for the projects that would, they said, not take up arable land. The farmers wrote to Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia proposing other plots which they said were both in a poor state and close by which could be used for the Wasteserv projects, rather than what has thus far been identified.


Plans for the Maghtab project include a waste-to-energy plant, a new plant for the management of dry recyclables, a plant to treat organic waste to extract energy and produce compost for use in agriculture, as well as the replacement of the clinical and abattoir waste incinerator.

The amount of land to be taken up by the project had already been significantly reduced after many had objected, with official statements saying that the facilities will be taking up a footprint of 82,000 square metres - 70% less than the previously planned 279,000 square metres.

In a statement today, Wasteserv Malta said that "away from the political narrative, facts show that after consultation, in particular with the farming sector, a decision was taken to drastically decrease the project footprint. The state-of-the-art investment as announced by Wasteserv is based on a long-term strategy intended to move to a circular economy approach which will also move away from landfilling and the further uptake of agricultural land."

"On the alternatives proposed by farmers, it is important to note that three of the four proposed plots include elements protected under the Habitats directive; in fact, the presence of garigue habitat was also acknowledged by the Opposition's environment spokesperson Edwin Vassallo in his video blog." Wasteserv contends that such land should be protected for its ecological significance.

In addition, one of the mentioned plots is home to a number of old endemic trees, the statement read.

"The fourth proposed alternative lies on the Żwejra landfill that, as already explained, is not suitable for such heavy plant development. Even if there weren't these impediments it has to be noted that the siting for the said plants is dictated by engineering necessities that will maximise the investment to its full potential."

Wasteserv reiterated that the project will have a footprint of 82,000m2 as opposed to the original proposal of 279,000m2. "Away from political narrative, facts show that after consultation, in particular with the farming sector, a decision was taken to drastically decrease the project footprint."

"Engineering considerations require that the Waste to Energy, the Organic Processing Plant, and the Thermal Treatment Facility, are built next to each other and in the vicinity of the existing digestors and water treatment facilities within the current complex. These plants will rely on common output streams to reach optimal efficiency and transform as much waste as possible into resources. This is a comprehensive strategy with all plants having complimentary functions. The infrastructure required for cooling and power grid connection is another important element in site selection and locating the plants sporadically as proposed will imply further land uptake in supporting facilities and roadworks. Furthermore, the mentioned facilities cannot be built on existing landfills for various engineering reasons. These include the depth of the said landfills and the absolute necessity to preserve the liners of the landfills. Failure to do so will result in serious environmental repercussions."

Wasteserv argues that "these are facts based on detailed studies carried out as part of the exercise to limit agricultural land expropriation as much as possible. In fact, through this exercise two facilities - a skip management facility and a waste storage amenity - were marked for potential erection on existing landfill grounds." The agency said that further studies are now required for this to be carried out, "saving a total of 35,000m2 of agricultural land. This could be possible because contrary to the other plant these two facilities only involve light structures. "

The agency said that another determining element that allowed Wasteserv to limit the originally planned land expropriation is the fast tracking of the project. "It is fundamental to underline that should the plants be delayed there will be no other option but to expropriate further land. Preparatory work on the Waste to Energy plant is already at an advanced stage, which work has already resulted in the submission of a detailed outline development permit in December 2019 and in the launch of the procurement process just last week. Wasteserv is duty bound to maintain this momentum as the earlier the plant comes to fruition the more safeguards there are for agricultural land in Magħtab."



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