SITA problems w incinerators n bribery

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    I've been told of Mark Venhoek, CEO of SITA – HK govt waste contractor – recently dismissing concerns over Shek Kwu Chau waste incinerator as NIMBYism. Highly insulting to those with genuine concerns.

    But, looking around on internet, seems SITA is not a great company to sit in judgment.

    Here's a little info, with SITA involved in woeful and even dangerous incinerator practices, and some bribing officials:

    Newcastle, UK – no incinerator ever again

    Burning waste does not get rid of waste. It concentrates the dangerous toxins by altering them into ash and gases that still need to go somewhere – landfill and air fill. Yet industry tells us that strong regulations, stringent monitoring and improved filtration systems make the new technologies safe. But the more efficient the filter at the stack, the more toxic is the fly ash and the more ultra fine are the particulate emissions from the stack.

    The reclamation/recycling site that mechanically processed, dried then made the waste into Refuse Derived Fuel as pellets was operated by Newcastle City Council then by SITA UK.

    In 1980 it was found that burning RDF produced more ash than expected causing problems with the operation of the boilers.

    By the end of 1998 RDF pellet making was abandoned as being too expensive and too difficult to comply with EU standards for pollution control. But plans were submitted to expand the incinerator and RDF process, enabling it to burn.

    Grievances about the incinerator and the adjoining reclamation station where the waste was processed were long standing. Complaints of flies, rats, dust, noise and fires. The roof had blown off, and the main stack had caught fire. In 1996 two days of black snow was spewed from the RDF stack. There is a 20% long term sickness rate in the east end of Newcastle.

    The workers in the RDF process frequently had skin rashes and stomach problems. They had to climb in to the machinery to free it as it was frequently jamming. On average there was one fire a week. Once a fire took hold in all the internal pipe work, which was very frightening and dangerous.

    Experiments in burning different waste products were tried such as formica dust and chicken muck. The formica dust flared and workers were lucky not to be hurt.

    SITA hired a firm to alter the RDF facility. There was an explosion with fire balls shooting out of the RDF stack. One witness said that she thought the whole place was going to explode. It was like a huge roman candle firework. A fire ball caused a fire close to the public road and footpath and only yards from people’s homes.

    An allotment holder said gardeners told her that ash from the incinerator had been spread on allotment footpaths. Council Officers confirmed 2,000 tonnes had gone to allotments, parks, and riding schools. The Council had recorded it as recycling. In some cases it had been down for 7 years.

    After taking advice from Communities Against Toxics the allotment holder approached the Environment Agency. The inspector was incredulous, saying SITA was a responsible firm that wouldn’t do such a thing. He had the nerve to ask for evidence.

    Sampling by the University and the Health Authority showed results of massive contamination with dioxins/furans and a major contamination of copper, lead and zinc in the majority of samples. Cadmium contamination was considerable too. 5ng/kg of dioxins was the target level, which is considered background level. Between 11 and 4,224 ng/kg of dioxins were found. The industry has known since 1977 that fly ash contains dioxins/furans.

    The Environment Agency licence says that, “Spent lime and ash from the bag filter will be put into a skip under permanent cover to prevent fugitive releases into the air, deposition directly onto land or leaching of metals. This will be transported to a local landfill.” It goes on to say, “The Company shall undertake appropriate measurement and analysis of all releases from the process which are designated for off site disposal to ensure that accurate information on the nature, quantity and type of waste may be given to those persons or companies disposing of the waste”. Neither of these instructions was followed.

    The Director of Public Health made recommendations to wash and peel vegetables, not to eat eggs and poultry and not to allow children under two onto the allotments. When the Director of Health and the toxicologist organising the testing were offered some beautiful, freshly-washed allotment produce but at the time of the proposed expansion of the incinerator they had grown strawberries and both quickly declined.

    More ash testing revealed one allotment with 9,500 ng/kg of dioxins which compares poorly with a target of 5ng/kg. The Environment Agency and Food Standards Agency took part in this 2nd report but did not include children under 10 in their calculations, effectively ignoring the potential problem for the most vulnerable.

    The Council and the incinerator company eventually pleaded guilty in the Crown Court and were fined. It had cost the tax payer a fortune in fines, testing, clean-up and remediation costs. The incinerator is now closed and the Council says no more burning in Newcastle.

    The Waste Industry claims that Newcastle’s incinerator was one of the older generation and that modern ones are different, been kept up to date so as to comply with regulations. Newcastle City Council had been led to believe it was the answer to their problem of compliance with recycling/recovery targets. They had completely disregarded doorstep collection of separated items for recycling. Newcastle figures for true recycling was 3% – one of the lowest in the country.

    However – to their credit – Newcastle was able to turn around the situation increadibly effectively, once they had begun to listen to local activists and work toward a zero waste policy.

    Sita's ash pile deals new blow to incineration's image

    The incineration industry suffered further embarrassment in November when it

    emerged that 25,000 tonnes of fly and bottom ash from Sita's Edmonton

    incinerator have been stockpiled at an open site in Dagenham for the past 18

    months. The Environment Agency wants the ash removed on the grounds that it is

    "waste" – but the ash recycler is fighting back.

    Efforts by the incineration sector to improve its environmental image have

    suffered major setbacks of late – especially concerning the recycling of

    contaminated ash. First came the Byker fiasco, where dioxin-laden ash was strewn

    on allotment paths in Newcastle. Next was the discovery that Sita's Edmonton

    incinerator, which it owns jointly with north London boroughs, had routinely

    sent mixed bottom and fly ash for use as construction aggregates (ENDS Report

    311, pp 16-17 ).

    Last summer, it emerged that some of the Edmonton ash had been used to make

    breeze blocks. Dioxin levels were estimated by Sita subsidiary LondonWaste to be

    735ng/kg – many times above background levels (ENDS Report 318, p 14 ).

    Two former directors of Macau Waste Systems Company (CSR), charged by the Hong Kong graft watchdog, were on Wednesday each sentenced to three years and three months’ imprisonment for having conspired to offer MOP 29 million in bribes to ex-secretary for Transport and Public Works, Ao Man Long, in return for cleaning contracts.

    Lionel John Krieger, 63, former president of CSR, and James Tam Ping Cheong, 57, former director of CSR, were found guilty of a joint charge of conspiracy to offer advantages to an agent.

    The court heard that CSR was a joint venture set up by Hong Kong-based Swire SITA Waste Services Limited (Swire SITA), a company of the Swire Group, and a Macau company, H. Nolasco.

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