Oxfordshire's first incinerator is weeks away from firing up as it receives its first delivery of rubbish (From Banbury Cake)
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A burning issue that will never go away
WASTE firm Viridor’s £200m incinerator has received its first delivery of rubbish – nine tonnes from Oxford – and its equipment is being tested to make sure it is in full working order.
The company, which won the Oxfordshire County Council contract to build and operate the controversial incinerator, said it will be fully operational this autumn.
Building work started in December 2011 and once testing is complete, it will handle up to 300,000 tonnes of waste each year. Viridor has a 30-year contract to run the Ardley centre.
- Edward Thomas
Viridor’s project director Edward Thomas said: “Construction of Ardley continues apace and we’re delighted to be on schedule with our plans.
“Now that we’ve received the first waste delivery, we’re beginning the commissioning phase to bring on line each of the remaining parts of the facility.
“In the autumn we will have a fully operational facility ready for ‘business as usual’ running.
“The end of the construction phase is in sight and it’s an exciting time for us all as we begin to see the facility move into its next phase.”
The facility has also created 40 jobs.
One of the first things people will see in the coming weeks is a process called ‘steam blowing’.
People living near the Ardley incinerator have been warned the procedure can be noisy – steam blowing sounds like a loud rumbling noise and lasts for about 15 minutes.
It is effectively clearing the pipes of dust or grit after building work to clean the system ready for the burner to be fired up.
Depending on weather conditions, plumes of non-hazardous steam may linger, and nearby roads will be monitored.
The journey to this point has not been an easy one.
There was fierce local opposition which ended in a public inquiry and a High Court battle.
For Oxfordshire county councillor Catherine Fulljames, who fought the burner, the battle rages on.
She warned traffic will be monitored to ensure the extra vehicles do not impact on the village of Ardley.
And she plans to launch a bid for compensation for residents affected by the incinerator.
- Catherine Fulljames
Mrs Fulljames, who last month celebrated 25 years as a county councillor, said: “We will be very diligent about the transport movements.
“The whole thing won’t be totally commissioned and fully running until September. That’s when all the rubbish from the county, from Wantage, Burford, Faringdon and Didcot, will go to a waste transfer station and all that stuff will go into a big bulker which will trundle across the county to the north.
“What I would really like to do is get some sort of compensation for local people.
“It’s a monster that will need feeding every day – it’s never going to be put out. It’s just going to be burning every day of the year and nobody is getting any compensation out of it. It’s a shame nothing was done earlier.”
FIGHT AGAINST THE PLAN PROVED COSTLY
- The campaign group with Jon O'Neill, left
Campaigners fought a long battle to try to stop the incinerator being built.
It was suggested by Oxfordshire County Council to try to reduce the amount of landfill tax it had to pay.
According to the county council, the incinerator will divert
95 per cent of the county’s waste from landfill.
The council said landfill tax is paid by the tonne and the cost went up to £80 per tonne this April. For 120,000 tonnes of waste, the authority would have to pay £9m in taxes.
Villagers in Ardley and the surrounding area quickly formed a protest group, Ardley Against the Incinerator (AAI), to oppose the council’s plan.
The group forced a public inquiry and took their fight to the Royal Courts of Justice, London, in a final legal bid, which failed.
AAI disbanded in January 2012 and its core members had to pick up the final bill for legal expenses of £7,000. The legal case alone cost £57,000.
Group chairman Jon O’Neill went on to become a district councillor, and one of his aims was to keep an eye on the incinerator.
Generating power for 38,000 homes
- The incinerator as it looks today
Viridor and Oxfordshire County Council call the Ardley incinerator an Energy from Waste (EfW) facility.
Effectively the plant will generate 24 megawatts of electricity.
A small amount will be used to power the facility and the majority will be fed directly into the national grid.
This will be enough power for 38,000 homes. In Cherwell there are 55,000 homes and in the entire county there are 255,000 households.
The incinerator will be regulated by the Environment Agency and Viridor had to get a permit before it could operate the facility.
Viridor says the plant uses efficient treatment technology which cleans the gases before they are released through the stack.
It will also monitor the plant 24/7 and all data will be reported to the Environment Agency.
Gases will be mostly carbon dioxide and water vapour, with traces of other compounds.
Handling 300,000 tonnes of waste
Each year the plant will be able to deal with up to 300,000 tonnes of waste.
It will take non-recyclable items such as polystyrene, some plastics and packaging, along with commercial and industrial waste.
People should continue to recycle items like metals, food and garden waste, paper, cardboard and glass for collection.
Larger items including mattresses, carpets, furniture and PVC window and door frames will continue to be sent to landfill.
Glass sheets, car tyres, tree stumps, gas canisters and aerosols, heavy metal items, household electrical items, building waste, soil and rubble, chemicals, oils and batteries will also be excluded.
Most of these items will be recycled via main recycling centres across the county.
Viridor said the incinerator will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions – the equivalent of 56,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
It will also provide an on-site visitor centre where schools and other groups can learn about sustainable waste management and energy.
The Eco-town connection
Work is under way to see if the incinerator could heat homes at Bicester’s planned 6,000-home eco town.
Cherwell District Council won an £83,000 Government grant to carry out a feasibility study to use steam from the Ardley incinerator to heat 6,000 homes and businesses.
The council and Sustainability charity BioRegional is looking at installing a specialist pipe system between the incinerator and the eco settlement to transfer heat.
Heat from incinerators is usually discharged into the atmosphere because homes are not close enough to use it, and laying pipes would be too expensive.
Similar schemes are used across Europe. The world’s biggest is in Copenhagen, Denmark, where pipes stretch 50km (30 miles) and energy from waste supplies 30 per cent of its heat. Research is expected to take about 18 months.
ANOTHER ONE IS ON THE WAY...
Plans to build a second incinerator just nine miles from Bicester were approved in 2012.
Work started last September by FCC Environment, formally known as Waste Recycling Group (WRG), to build the burner at Calvert.
At the time campaigners said Bicester will be “the filling in an incinerator sandwich”.
The Calvert burner will also take 300,000 tonnes of waste, and there are expected to be an extra 84 lorry trips a day around Bicester as waste is trucked to the Calvert site from Buckinghamshire.
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