- Bird Flu
- Countryside access
- Dark Skies
- Eco labels
- EU Environmental
- European Union
- Farming & CAP
- Global Warming
- Green Taxes
- Internet Access
- Irish NGO's
- Natural Resources
- Non-Irish Stories
- Parks & Designations
- Science & animals
- Views & Opinons
- World Summit
// Cork Landfill: So right, it's wrong
While it sticks rigidly to best practice in its operations and avoids environmental issues that plague other sites, Bottlehill landfill has serious problems, writes Claire O'Sullivan
It is now over four-and-a-half years since the site was completed and there is still no date set for when the landfill will open. The question is: will it ever open?
CIVIL engineers get very excited when they talk about the Bottlehill landfill. It must be something like discussing a full face transplant with surgeons.
Driving around the 250 acre site which is set in the middle of commercial Coillte woodlands near Rathduff, even us civvies can't help but be impressed by the best-practice approach to what was a highly contentious development long before it was granted planning permission.
Two miles off the Cork to Mallow Road, Bottlehill landfill is widely accepted as the most sophisticated and hence best-engineered landfill in this country. As one engineer puts it "many of its predecessors were nothing more than dumps or holes in the ground. This is a properly engineered landfill: a very different concept".
The Bottlehill Environmental Alliance (BEA), headed up by John O'Riordan, led the vocal battle against the 5.3 million tonne dump. Cork County Council had named three sites at Grenagh, Watergrasshill and Bottlehill as possible options but after they settled on Bottlehill, and an An Bord Pleanála inspector rubber-stamped that decision after a lengthy oral hearing, construction work began in March six years ago.
In April 2007, the site was completed and for the past four years, engineers have been undertaking environmental and ecological monitoring at the €56 million site so they have a database against which to compare water and soil quality when, and if, the landfill begins operation. The environmental laboratory at Bottlehill is also completing testingon Cork County Council's Rossmore and Youghal dumps.
An Environmental Monitoring Committee, made up of locals from Bottlehill, Mourneabbey and Carrignavar, public representatives and Cork County Council landfill experts, has also been meeting for the past six years. They will continue to do so for the expected 20-year life of the landfill.
On the day that the Irish Examiner visited the site, technical staff were monitoring the site's pre-existing gas emissions. Local streams will also be visually monitored weekly while gas emissions will be monitored and tested monthly. Every three months, surface and ground water will also be tested. A SCADA computer system runs on the site 24 hours a day, seven days a week monitoring pumping systems and lighting and detecting any potential leaks.
On the outer edges of the landfill itself, which has been described as a sunken bathtub the size of a football stadium, sit two manmade lagoons. Rainwater has been pumped off the landfill into these ponds and this water was used during the site construction. Best practice in sustainability is at the core of the landfill site with geothermal heating and high standards of insulation in all onsite buildings and power cables laid underground.
The landfill has been broken into eight phases, so that one section will be closed and covered over before another is open. Phase one will take 650,000 tonnes of waste and by Cork County Council's original waste intake calculations will last up to four years.
Each phase is made up of four cells and each of the cells contains a layer of low permeability clay, a second geocap layer composed partly of bentinite and a third layer of high density polyeythlene (HDPE), all serving as a triple-protection barrier to stop groundwater leaking in to the cell and forming leachate or contaminants leaking into the groundwater outside the landfill.
At present, approximately 25 metres x 25 metres of the site is open - albeit covered by soil and rubble until the first load of compacted and baled waste is thrown in. Sticking out of the landfill are peculiar looking pipes surrounded by compacted stones. These are used to collect landfill and leachate gas. Landfill gas is generated within waste as it breaks down because the landfill is airtight. Made up of approximately 60% methane and 40% CO2, the methane will be burned off on site as it's highly dangerous, as well as being a greenhouse gas. It is possible that the flaring of methne at Bottlehill could be used to produce electricity. It's estimated the site could generate enough energy to power 1,000 homes.. All the waste that arrives at Bottlehill landfill will already have been treated so that all biological waste has been removed at a Greenstar Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) in the county.
There was much debate on the levels of leachate and landfill gas that would emanate from the site during the An Bord Pleanála hearing into the development. Leachate is a liquid solution that forms in a landfill after suspended solids or contaminants are leached out of the solid waste and mix with available liquids. According to Bottlehill Facility Manager, Niall O'Callaghan, the pumping of rainwater off the landfill and the regular covering of the cells will serve to minimise leachate levels. However leachate will inevitably build up and this will be pumped to two onsite storage tanks before being treated at Mallow wastewater treatment plant.
Just recently an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report into the country's landfills highlighted that 70% of complaints related to odours. According to Cork County Council these sites were "poorly operated" with substandard waste coverage, capping systems and gas collection. At Bottlehill, the open cells will be covered over each night.
There are two houses within a kilometre of the dump and one within 500 metres of the site. The site is also a hen harrier breeding ground and ecologists arrive at the site each year to ensure that the landfill has not disrupted breeding. At least one chick has been born each year since construction began.
However, it is now over four-and-a-half years since the site was completed and there is still no date set for when the landfill will open. The question is: will it ever open?
According to Cork County Council, the facility will only "be financially viable if a minimum of 150,000 tonnes of waste arising in the region can be directed to the facility and a minimum gate fee of €50 can be charged". Currently, gate fees are €20-€30 and the most up-to-date EPA national waste report showed municipal waste levels falling by 8% in 2009 and 5% the year previous. Annual residual waste in Cork has dropped to 25,000 tonnes - an eighth of what Bottlehill requires.
The dogs in the street know the future is all about diversion from landfill as the EU's landfill directive steadily accelerates fines for landfilling biodegradable waste that should be recycled. Environment Minister Phil Hogan's recent increase in landfill levies is a nod to that.
And so the county manager has decided to put the project on hold, while "future waste sector activities are reviewed". The only way that Cork County Council will be able to wash the egg off its face is if it gets support from the National Environment Fund "towards reducing the cost of expensive infrastructure which was developed in accordance with previous Government policy". Letters making such requests haven't even been acknowledged.
In one way, Cork County Council got it so right in its "best practice" approach at Bottlehill. But in the most important way of all, it couldn't have been more wrong.
Read more: http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/so-right-its-wrong-178957.html#ixzz1iUB533tO
By Claire O'Sullivan
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 04, 2012
Added By: Tony Lowes
Comments: 1 | Add Comment
|Lesley Colley on 09/08/2012|
Maybe Cork Co Co should have listened to the Bottlehill Environmental Alliance in the first place then. Or perhaps given more than a bored 5 min listen to Environmental professionals that the BEA introduced to the council with other ideas and solutions to the problems of waste management that would have cost them less and been operational by now.
Article Rating: 1 / 5
Comments are checked before they are shown on the site.