Many questions still unanswered

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From Robert Le Brocq, former Constable of St Helier.

IT will be some time before the Island’s residents and our visitors can see the finished incinerator at La Collette and can comment upon its physical presence and architectural merit.

We will then have the satisfaction of knowing it was designed by a favoured UK architect, as I doubt if any of our local architects would have designed anything like what we will eventually see emerge, out of the ash pits.

I don’t recall ever being offered access to view a model of the plant. Especially as the Planning Department seem to now insist upon models and profiles being erected for many minor yet contentious structures.

Profiles would have been almost impossible to construct for such a large structure but a model for the building, using the existing model for the whole area, would have been neither difficult nor expensive.

One of the key selling points when choosing La Collette over many alternative locations was the ability to use the very old and partially obsolete JEC chimney. This option was chosen by Transport and Technical Services instead of building an entirely new and purpose-built chimney, designed to match the Mass Burn Municipal Waste Incinerator.

Even though I attended several liaison meetings in 2008, I do not recall ever getting detailed answers to the following questions:

• Would the Incinerator manufacturer have preferred to have built a dedicated chimney instead of using an old one? If so why?

• lWhat costs are associated with making repairs and modifications to the JEC chimney to adapt to these types of fumes and highly toxic gasses?

• lWhat costs are associated with the 100m-long horizontal flue connection between the new incinerator and the existing JEC chimney?

• Will additional heating be required to ensure that the gasses have sufficient ability to travel up the JEC chimney?

• What costs will be associated with all of the additional plant?

• Has the incinerator construction company been able to absolutely guarantee the emission volume, speed and quality measured at the chimney exit at levels in excess of those anticipated to be in force when the plant is commissioned?

• What would the cost of a dedicated purpose-designed and built chimney have been for this plant? I would expect it to be a stock/ standard design, not quite an off-the-shelf unit, but one relatively easily priced. Obviously it will be dependent upon prevailing ground conditions, adjoining land masses, wind strengths and direction?

Dr Rosemary Geller, Jersey’s Medical Officer of Health, made a firm statement when she said ‘the new plant will be better that the old one’. That statement in all reality was unfortunately of little real value or comfort.

Sadly it has been alleged that Bellozanne was so old and decrepit that it should have been closed down or extensively modified in the late 80s due to its performance. Its emissions levels were alleged to be 20 times worse than some UK ones, even compared against the UK’s low performance requirements.

And that figure was reported at the PM 2.5 level where particles are so minutely tiny that they can be breathed in but not breathed out. Some of these emissions were present when the plant was not known to be dangerous but by the 1980s alarm bells began to ring.

The analogy with asbestos is a good one. Asbestos is a very valuable and useful material, which had thousands of different applications in almost every industry. Yet it began to emerge that the dust was dangerous and now highly dangerous – so how you handle it either new or remedially is well controlled – generally.

The toxic emissions and ash from the often uncontrolled burning of commercial and domestic waste has undoubtedly left the Island’s residents with a long term legacy. How did the RRB and subsequently Transport and Technical Services, respond to those concerns at that time?

Therefore, I cannot help feeling that knowing it will be better is not much comfort. It should be seriously exceeding all known international standards or not accepted at all. It will be interesting to see how long it is before problems emerge with emissions levels that may be blamed upon the old JEC chimney. Then guess what, the Incinerator will need a purpose-built chimney of its own.

Not at the incinerator builders’ expense, as they will have built-in clauses to protect themselves from an unknown chimney and a horizontal flue system. Guess who will have to foot the bill?

As I mentioned earlier getting accurate and reliable information was not always easy and it was plain that some people present did not always possess correct information.

One senior States employee even stated that the wind predominantly blew offshore, so it would take all the emissions onto the Ramsar site and our once world famous sea fishing areas.

Time will tell as they say.

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