Doubts about Malta’s ability to keep May 1 commitment for engineered landfill confirmed
WasteServ’s Head of Strategy engineer Dr Christopher Ciantar replies to questions about the option of keeping Maghtab open, waste separation at source and whether tourists might stay away. MaltaToday’s Julian Manduca spoke to him about the prospects of keeping Malta’s commitments with the EU and the decision to site the mixed waste landfills near the Neolithic temples
The siting of two waste landfills near the grade one World Heritage Sites has provoked the ire of the head of Heritage Malta, Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, the environment NGOs, 12,000 people who signed a petition against the proposal and countless others who express themselves publicly or remain silent.
Ing Dr Chris Ciantar has been a driving force behind WasteServ’s attempts to deal with Malta’s waste management problems. He has been particularly enthusiastic to involve the business community in Malta’s plans to cut down on waste use.
The decision to site waste landfills near Malta’s temples has shocked many, and was not contemplated in Malta’s waste management strategy. But Ciantar defends WasteServ’s decisions: \"The choice of the preferred site for the long term landfill and its constraints were unknown when the strategy was drafted. It is WasteServ’s responsibility to tackle challenges, which inevitably arise during Strategy implementation.
\"Other alternatives were evaluated and the choice of the preferred site for the interim facility is not solely the responsibility of WasteServ. However, given that the site is located outside the water protection zone, given that the site offers sufficient void for a 3 year facility and is disused, WasteServ and its consultants believe that technically an acceptable scheme for this site may be developed.\"
MEPA chairman Andrew Calleja has doubted Malta can have a new engineered landfill come May 1, and Ciantar believes: \"WasteServ continues to focus on the first of May deadline. However, unforeseen delays cannot be forecasted by WasteServ.
\"Whether the first of May deadline will be attained or not, WasteServ will continue to ensure that all planning procedures for this interim facility will follow the strict rules and regulations of the MEPA permitting process as detailed in the EIA Regulations.\"
The idea of keeping Maghtab open instead of the ‘temple’ landfills has been suggested but Ciantar counters: \"WasteServ reiterates that Ghallis would require approximately 2.5 years of preparation to accommodate the first cell. Maghtab cannot accommodate all the waste originating during this period of time as it is reaching exhaustion. Also, the 8.4 million euros, to be co-funded by the EU during 2004-2006 and acquired for the treatment and rehabilitation of Maghtab, would be put at risk if the dump would continue to operate.
Nevertheless according to Ciantar, Ghallis will have a toxic landfill at Ghallis, even if the EIA is incomplete to date: \"following the issuing of the development permit, toxic waste will be delivered for treatment, storage and disposal at the hazardous waste cell to be developed at Ghallis.
\"This secure cell is to be of a much smaller size than the first cell of the long-term facility and will therefore not require a long period of time for it to be constructed. This cell will be separated from the long-term non-hazardous, non inert waste facility planned for Ghallis. This will be constructed at an earlier stage to receive waste during the operational period of the interim landfill.
\"No toxic waste apart from that which originates from households will find its way to any engineered landfill, including the interims. However, irrespective of how effective a waste separation scheme is, some hazardous waste from households will inevitably end up in an engineered landfill. Having said that, it must be stressed that the lining system for any engineered landfill is designed to take account of these hazardous components too.\"
WasteServ have been attacked for not pushing ahead with waste separation at source: \"
\"WasteServ has fallen behind on waste separation for a number of valid reasons, including: the justified delays in the upgrading of Sant’Antnin Waste Treatment Plant for which 16 million euros from Cohesion Funds have been secured for the period 2004-2006; the need for technical assistance to design an effective Waste Separation Scheme that is now forthcoming under pre-accession funds. This project is due to start in the first quarter of 2004; the securing of Structural Funds for the period 2004-2006 for developing the infrastructures (bring-in sites, Civic Amenity sites, etc) necessary for waste separation including a thorough and exhaustive educational/awareness rising campaign; and the lack of support received from stakeholders.
\"Despite the above WasteServ will persevere to continue a scheme for the separate collection of household waste, as the current nation wide bring-in site campaign clearly demonstrates. WasteServ also acknowledges the Swieqi waste separation project that is assisting in gaining valuable information on waste separation.\"
Quizzed as to why thousands of people who oppose the temple landfills are being ignored, Ciantar states: \"the thousands of Maltese people opposing the landfill site both at Ghallis and at Maghlaq/Qasam il-Kbir are not being ignored. Indeed all of the issues raised by them have been addressed in the Environmental Impact Assessment that in turn satisfies the MEPA Terms of Reference.
\"The EIA for the interim landfill has been distributed for public consultation for further considerations. This EIA does not identify any overriding impact that should prevent the interim landfill facility from being
The idea that tourists might be put off from visiting Malta because of the temple landfills does not impress Ciantar: \"The choice of site being close to a sensitive area was certainly not done to put people off from visiting Malta. The constraints of Malta’s size and the fact that there are two 40 metre deep scars next to such a sensitive site calls for an immediate improvement. It is acknowledged that a slight temporary inconvenience will be experienced in the close proximity of the site, which should result in a longer term benefit through the rehabilitation of the area as the EIA characterizes.\"