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Department seeking to address management of problematic waste

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The deadline is approaching for organisations to register their interest in providing long-term strategic waste management services for the Isle of Man.

Responses to the Department of Infrastructure’s Prior Information Notice must be submitted by midday on Friday 1 July. Applicants will then be contacted for further discussion about their proposals.

The Department is exploring options to ensure there is adequate capacity to meet demand over the next 10 to 15 years. This is likely to include the provision of an engineered landfill site licenced to accept problematic and inert wastes.

It is intended that a specialist facility would accept contaminated silt dredged from the Island’s harbours as part of the Department’s maintenance of its strategic assets.

The presence of heavy metals and PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) has meant that silt excavated from Peel harbour cannot be disposed of at sea. Further analysis has also identified traces of PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls).

The Department was recently notified of the results of tests carried out by the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture. Consequently, plans to dredge Peel harbour earlier this month included the provision of equipment to dewater and process the contaminated silt prior to it being transported to a temporary storage site. This work has been put on hold until next year.

PCBs were commonly used as an insulating material in electric equipment such as transformers and capacitors and also in certain fluids and lubricants. The use of PCBs has been banned in many countries since the 1970s because of the possible impact on the environment.

PCBs can enter the environment via old landfill sites containing PCB waste products or through the breakdown of oil spilled during historic industrial activity. The escape of leachate from the Raggatt landfill has been identified as a potential source of PCB contaminants found in the silt in Peel harbour. The situation is likely to have been exacerbated during the winter following some of the heaviest rainfall on record.

The Department of Infrastructure is currently working with DEFA to address this issue as part of a broader programme to identify and manage contaminants entering the sea from closed landfill sites.

Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne MHK said:

‘The possible influence of PCBs was identified as a result of proactive work by the Departments of Infrastructure and Environment, Food and Agriculture. We agreed on the need for further testing of the silt before drawing up plans to dredge Peel harbour this year. Since being notified of the test results, the Department has continued to work closely with DEFA and has also engaged a specialist with experience of dealing with issues of this nature.’

He added:

‘The temporary sites used to store harbour silts over the past 18 months have been specially engineered to minimise any potential run-off and testing of the run-off that does occur has detected no PCBs. Work is now taking place to identify a permanent facility licensed to accept problematic waste. We are also looking at ways of treating the leachate from the old Raggatt landfill site prior to its disposal. The Department takes its responsibilities in relation to public health and the environment very seriously and is working to find the best possible solution. This work will include reviews of other closed landfill sites to assess whether or not they are having an impact on rivers or the marine environment.’

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