Continued concern over incinerator emissions at Whispers Vinery

April 26th, 2013 by Paul Aitchison

A view of the Whispers Vinery chimneys off Rue des Goddards, Castel on 9 July 2011 (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

A view of the Whispers Vinery chimneys off Rue des Goddards, Castel on 9 July 2011 (click image to expand – ©RLLord)

The privately owned and operated Whispers Vinery waste wood incinerator at Vazon Bay had operated from March 2011 but following complaints from local residents about pungent smoke, and following emission testing, the plant was shut down after three months.

In December 2012, the States of Guernsey gave the go-ahead for the waste wood incinerator to restart operations.

This decision may have been partly driven by a desire to divert 1000 tonnes of waste wood each year from the Mont Cuet landfill.

Valerie Cameron, Director of Environmental Health and Pollution Regulation, assured local residents that the incinerator plant would be safe.

It would not be restarted unless it complied with a new waste management licence and that would include stringent pollution controls.

The Director also gave assurance in a letter that the plant would “have to be compliant with the EU Waste Incineration Directive [WID] as required by States of Guernsey resolution and by the waste management licence.”

This States of Guernsey Resolution is found in pages in Billet d’Etat XV dated Wednesday 28 September 2011, Volume 2.

The heart of this waste incinerator is a biomass wood chip burner which is designed to burn clean wood chip – usually a by-product of wood industries such as forestry or manufacturing.

When the go-ahead was given to restart the incinerator, high efficiency ceramic filters had been retrofitted, which reduced particulate emissions, which produce “smoke”.  Ceramic filters do not prevent poisonous gases being discharged to the atmosphere.

The licence states that the sole supplier of the waste wood to the incinerator is Island Waste Ltd.

This company is a skip hire and general waste management contractor. Their waste management licence (WML15) has recently been amended to include:

“All waste wood sorted, stored and chipped for transfer to Whispers Vinery – WML 17 shall be visibly clean and free from any surface coatings such as plastic, paint, creosote, formica and free from any ironmongery, cabling etc.”

Unfortunately, the British Standards Institute document PAS 111: 2012 states “at the present time it is not technically or commercially viable to reliably identify and remove treated wood waste material during processing. Neither is it practical to test recycled materials for all chemicals that could be present”

So, even if the new condition is met, the waste wood may still be contaminated with dangerous chemicals.

The problem that the recycling industry has with waste wood is that often the wood is chemically treated with wood preservative. This is a particular problem with wood recovered from construction demolition waste.

But if the plant at Whispers Vinery complies with WID, it should be able to safely dispose of chemically treated wood.

The concern that local residents have is that the plant does not comply with WID.

Here are three examples of where it falls short:

  • WID requires the temperature of the combustion furnace to reach 1100 degrees Celsius for hazardous waste. Wood preservative is defined as hazardous waste. WML17 requires the plant to operate at only 800° Celsius.
  • When the plant starts up (and this is a frequent occurrence) there will be a period before the plant reaches operating temperature. During this period combustion is poor and stack emissions are even more dangerous. WID requires the use of an auxiliary burner to “preheat” the furnace before the waste is introduced. No auxiliary burner is fitted at the plant.
  • WID requires continuous emissions monitoring (CEM) equipment to be in place. If any of the emission limit values set out in the EU Directive are breached, the plant automatically shuts down. This safeguard is also missing from the plant.

And so there is confusion over the safe operation of this plant:

Is it Island Waste Ltd’s responsibility to ensure that the non-WID compliant incinerator at the vinery does not emit toxic gases by ensuring only a clean wood chip supply or is it the operators of the incinerator who have a responsibility to ensure that the plant complies with WID?

Perhaps the safe course of action would be to suspend the operation of the plant until the confusion is resolved.

By Paul Aitchison BSc (Hons) CEng MCIBSE MBA


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