Chief Executive of the Garenne Group offers his advice to States of Guernsey on proposed incinerator

February 4th, 2010 by Andy

I would like to take issue with Peter Roffey’s conclusions in his Guernsey Press article of 19th January 2010 titled ‘Burning Issue’.

I have no vested interest, more the opposite in fact since our company would probably have some involvement in the construction of the Suez Incinerator should it be built.  However, I am fundamentally opposed to Guernsey constructing such a huge incinerator plant.

Because I have experience of various aspects of incinerator construction, it might be useful for others to read my opinions on the subject.  Our company quoted at the time of Lurgi and were involved in the tender process eventually won by Suez.  We are currently constructing the Jersey Incinerator and have been on site now for twelve months.  Throughout these last eight or nine years we have worked very closely with the process contractors, CNIM, Energos, WRG and Imtech.  All of their waste experts, to a man, believe that what Guernsey is currently proposing is ‘mad’ and that we must have money “to burn”!!

They all believe it is far too big and expensive for an island of our size and not the solution any of them would put forward if only they could be given that opportunity.

Referring to Peter Roffey’s numbered paragraphs:

1.    It is disingenuous to refer to incinerator opponents purely as people (deputies) with a “green leaning”.  Of course, environmental issues are extremely important; incineration is clearly not environmentally friendly and many UK and European countries are now sourcing alternatives.

But it is the overall conclusion which we should embrace: the Suez plant is environmentally unfriendly as a process, it will be a huge ugly building partly destroying our north eastern coastline and it is far too expensive. These three main points are individually damaging but put together and you have a total disaster scenario!

2.      The alternatives are many and they are not all cutting-edge technology as Peter Roffey suggests.   I would not be so bold as to select which alternative is best (it could be Stan Brouards autoclave, it could be landfill, it could be micro incinerators, etc, etc.) but I am convinced there is a tried and tested, simpler, cheaper solution out there for Guernsey.

3.    It is accepted that all waste treatment processes produce a residue.  From my experience the residues from an incinerator are more toxic and “risky” to deal with than other treatment processes.

4.    Exporting waste to Jersey seems a very sensible solution to me.  Jersey’s new plant is 18 months away from completion.  It is too big for Jersey’s current waste projections, at least for the next 15 years.  Jersey States have recently reconfirmed their desire to accept Guernsey’s waste.  The experience in the UK (Isle of Man is a good example) is that incinerators end up “importing” waste because they need to keep the burners going, so it could be that Jersey could take our waste for longer than 15 years.  The thought of Guernsey’s incinerator, if built, being too big is frightening, environmentally and economically – recycling would have to disappear and we might have to import waste!

Jersey would have no extra work to do in order to receive our waste because their tipping hall is already sized to receive the large tipping lorries.  The shipping companies have already stated they have the capacity.  Guernsey would need to build a waste transfer section.  I built such a station in South Wales some 25 years ago and, it is a fairly simple construction.  I would guess to build something similar in Guernsey would currently cost in the region of, say, £4m.  Surely this 15 year solution at very acceptable costs must be explored, bearing in mind that 15 years is over half the life of the 25 year Suez plant.

5.    As a contractor, I do not believe Guernsey will lose its credibility as a client if they change their mind on this issue now.  I do not accept that “few serious waste treatment companies will want to have anything to do with us in the future”.  On the contrary all the companies we deal with would be very willing to get involved in a waste solution for Guernsey that they would see as being appropriate and not “mad” as is their view of the current proposal.

6.    I don’t understand why people talk of the waste plant being self financing or “free to the States”.  The simple fact whether States run or privately funded is that the people of Guernsey will be paying for this plant.  If there is a cheaper solution out there, and there is, then we will all benefit financially.

7.    Longue Hougue is a large site and the alternatives to the Suez plant are generally smaller so less likely to sterilise the site.  In fact one of the greatest reasons not to build the Suez plant is that 25 years after construction it will reach the end of its working life and then what?  Then we really will have a sterilised site.

8.    Landfilling Les Vardes again appears a very plausible alternative.  Do we really need if for future water storage – quite unlikely since our current water storage gives us a full year of use.

The environmental problems associated with landfill have always been the production of methane and leachate.  These can both be dealt with now fairly
simply.   A very plausible solution to our waste problem could be a strategy of:

•    Export to Jersey for 15 years allowing Ronez final quarrying time at Les Vardes
•    Build methane / leachate treatment at head of quarry and landfill in Les Vardes for well in excess of 50 years
•    Use Longue Hougue for something more valuable.

9.    New technology around the corner is here now, is not untried and should be reviewed.  The problem has been the States brief to, and choice of, their consultants.  They have been wedded to an incinerator and do not appear to want to open their eyes to alternatives.  If we move forward in a positive way by rejecting the Suez incinerator we must set up a more open minded team to explore the many better options.

10.    Peter Roffey is right in saying that somebody has to start to govern and make some real decisions.  This should not mean that we must make the wrong decision at all costs.

I would urge States members to support Jan Kuttelwascher’s requete and ultimately decide not to proceed with the Suez Incinerator.

Andy Hall
Chief Executive Officer
Garenne Group

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