After 18 months of campaigning to have Jersey’s many full, old and dodgy asbestos containers safely dealt with, SOS Jersey believe that there is a technology currently available that will avoid the spectre of ‘temporary burial’.

The possible solution is a currently available internationally licenced and approved technology, and it would be foolhardy not to at least invite the company to tender for the contract; it is USA company Kurion’s Geomelt ‘In Container Vitrification’.

The asbestos must not be buried and double / triple handled at significant cost when it could be safely and permanently dealt with inside the existing containers and, with goodwill and an end to political wrangling, could be commenced within months.

A few of the 217 plus shipping containers stacked at La Collette, each containing a full load of asbestos contaminated material. Some of these containers (already second hand 16 years ago) are rusting and not airtight.

The shocking pile of asbestos containers at La Collette, Jersey
The shocking pile of asbestos containers at La Collette, Jersey

Save Our Shoreline (Jersey) has waited patiently since raising the issue in July 2012 of the 217 rusting shipping containers, containing (by TTS estimates) 200 tonnes of asbestos contaminated material stored at La Collette. However our conservative estimate would indicate that there could be considerably more than this.

We understand that this process is now operational and is approved by international regulators, and would be a safe solution to permanently eliminating what John Rogers, CEO, Transport & Technical Services, has stated is: ‘Jersey’s number one health hazard’. The treated material would be inert and reusable, thus negating any need for burial.

SOSJ maintain that there is no need for ‘temporary burial’ in pits necessitating significant extra costs and hazardous re-interment at some future date. Indeed we feel that once buried it will be a case of ‘out of sight out of mind’. After all, the second hand shipping containers purchased 16 years ago by the previous CEO of TTS John Richardson were at that time deemed to be a temporary solution and they are still at La Collette.

We question the dubious value of wasting the States time and reputation on infighting and point scoring when there is in fact a potentially cost effective solution which could be commenced in the very near future and which has been sitting on the desks of the TTS Minister and Officers from for well over a year. The CEO TTS, John Rogers, has met us twice since we raised the issue and both times has and expressed enthusiasm for the Geomelt solution.

What is not clear to SOSJ is why there has been a recent change of heart and TTS are now considering burial when we could treat the waste now and avoid the significant extra costs and hazards of temporary burial altogether? Geomelt is a one stop permanent solution. Other hazardous waste can also be added for treatment, for example the hazardous APCr incinerator ash that is now currently being stored or exported.

Power can be supplied from the Energy from Waste plant at off peak times. The simplicity of the plant, its portability, and its method of operation strongly suggest that both the capital and running cost are likely to be well within any sums envisaged to date.

Kurion Geomelt process to deal with asbestos
Kurion Geomelt process to deal with asbestos

The Kurion Geomelt process vitrifies the material within the containers – no handling, danger to the public or workforce or need for significant extra costs for burial. The treated material is inert.

The ‘melt container’ can be situated above ground or (as shown here) below ground with the hood set above. (The plant in the background is not necessary.)

This method of disposal (Kurion’s Geomelt ‘In Container Vitrification’ process) enables large quantities of hazardous waste to be processed very economically as opposed to other systems such as the one previously visited in France, which uses plasma treatment of the asbestos only, and thus requires pre-sorting of the asbestos to separate it from surrounding materials which would end up in landfill.

Apart from the considerable dangers involved to the workforce, the transport, separation and handling process makes the option significantly less economical. In either case, with the large volumes that have been accumulated, treatment is going to be a fairly lengthy process which is precisely why a decision should be taken now.

If adopted, the Geomelt solution could also free up the pit already dug, for material from the SoJDC Finance Centre, much of which has been confirmed by TTS as being classed as hazardous due to the high content of Bellozanne ash which was spread over the area by the Department when the beach below the Esplanade car park was reclaimed.

We have some sympathy with the Planning and Environment Minister. The asbestos problem was not of his making and he has tried to find alternative methods to burial. However the problem (as we see it having in frustration watched both Ministers Deputies Rob Duhamel and Kevin Lewis, and their Chief Officers at Scrutiny Hearings over the past year) is of an absence of meaningful communication between the two Ministers and their respective Departmental Heads and staff.

We cannot help but feel that both Ministers and their Principal Officers could have sat around a table and resolved their differences some time ago and agreed a way forward. Now we have the spectre of no solution at all – back to the TTS’ historic way of digging a pit and burying the problem.

This way of working is unproductive and must stop. We would strongly suggest that a way be found whereby Kurion be invited to submit a tender for dealing with the asbestos waste on site at La Collette and do so by a mutually agreed deadline within the very near future. With common sense and goodwill shown on all sides, we believe that the problem can be dealt with safely, sensibly, and most important permanently, commencing within months and not years.

What can Kurion do? Click here to see their Geomelt ‘In Container Vitrification’ process

Asbestos issue comes to a head – December 2013
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