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Preparation work begins at UK EfW site amid concerns for public health

UK-based waste management company Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) has begun site preparation works at its Gloucestershire energy-from-waste (EfW) plant, despite concerns over the site’s effects on public health.

To be located at Javelin Park, Gloucestershire, UBB hopes to have the construction work begin in earnest in September 2016.

The company has signed a contract with Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) to build and operate the EfW facility, which will process around 190,000 tonnes of residual waste left over after reuse, recycling, and composting.

The plant will export over 14.5MW electricity annually or enough to power 25,000 homes, reduce carbon emissions by 40,000 tonnes, and save Gloucestershire County more than £150 million (€178m) over the life of the contract, UBB says.

Andrew Bendall, project director at UBB, said it is important to prepare the site so that work can proceed and that the works are “a standard preparatory procedure”.

“We will provide regular project updates to local communities and interested stakeholders throughout the works. We have also set up a formal community liaison group for the project through whom we engage directly with the communities and wider public,” Bendall said.

Preparatory works include installation of the perimeter fencing, security and access control, and ground preparation involving levelling, construction laydown, and working platforms.

In addition, the company is preparing temporary pathways and construction vehicle routes and installing a temporary construction “village” for those working on the project with CCTV footage across the site.

The project was granted planning permission in January 2015 followed by the contract in January 2016 and also has an environmental permit.

Construction is likely to take up to 35 months and the facility is anticipated to be operational after commissioning in late 2019.

'Known health hazard'

But the project is being opposed by local groups who are concerned about the plant’s possible effect of public health in the area.

Sue Oppenheimer, chairman of the campaign group GlosVAIN that is rallying against the plans, has urged the local council to hold off on the project until more data was available on the impact of mass-burn incineration, planned to be used at the facility.

“The particulates created from the emissions of incineration are a known health hazard. The substances emitted are well known for their health effects, such as cancer causing dioxins,” Oppenheimer told the Gazette newspaper.

“While some research exists claiming that incineration is a safe technology, other research claims it to be a dangerous technology – especially with increased levels of infant mortality. I think where such doubt exists we must urge caution and not risk damaging people's health.”

UBB has dismissed the claims that incineration was dangerous, with project director Javier Peiro saying: “The Environment Agency raised no concerns with UBB’s proposals awarding an Environmental Permit, and will continue to monitor the facility through construction, commissioning and operational phases of the project.”