The waste treatment plant at Pentakomo – processing the municipal refuse of the Limassol district – is still resorting to burying the vast majority of the by-products generated there, the Sunday Mail is told, ironic because the purpose of building a mechanical biological treatment plant, like the one in Pentakomo, was to end the practice of burying solid waste.
Moreover the government received EU funding for the project precisely on the proviso that the municipal waste would be treated, not buried.
Pentakomo’s plant – operated by a partnership of Medcon and db Technologies – serves the entire Limassol district, which previously disposed of its municipal waste at a landfill in Vati.
The facility generates a waste treatment by-product that is a mix of Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) with Refuse-Derived Fuel (RDF).
SRF is essentially mud that has been dried, while RDF – also in solid form – consists mostly of processed plastic bags and fabrics.
The project is still under the care of the government – it has yet to be assigned to the municipal authorities of Limassol.
Unable to find any takers for the by-products, the government had resorted to burying them in a nearby basin since the facility went operational in November 2017.
About a year ago, the Water Development Department (WDD), as the contracting authority for the Pentakomo facility, requested from the Department of the Environment permission to bury the by-products temporarily.
Permission was granted for a year. Now, the Sunday Mail understands, the WDD is asking for another 12 months.
As a back-up, the WDD had entered into talks with Vassiliko Cement Works for using the by-products as a fuel.
The government pays Vassiliko to take in the waste by-products.
Some progress has been achieved since – but not much.
In an emailed response, George Savva, deputy general manager and CFO of Vassiliko Cement Works, told the Sunday Mail that in January and February of this year they carried out industrial-scale trials to evaluate the possibility of using the two streams of waste (SRF and RDF) treated at Pentakomo as alternative fuels.
The RDF stream, Savva said, was not in line with the requirements of the tender documents for the operation of the waste management site, primarily due to the high moisture content – over 35 per cent instead of 20 per cent.
As such the RDF stream cannot be used as a fuel in the cement industry.
The SRF stream meanwhile was tested and deemed fit for purpose.
“Following this, we have now entered into a preliminary agreement with the WDD (end of June 2019) to start receiving the SRF which has accumulated at Pentakomo,” Savva said.
“The delivery of this waste stream to our plant has already started. We are now in discussions with the WDD for a longer-term agreement regarding all the quantities of this specific waste stream.”
But other sources familiar with the matter said the SRF accounts for only 10 per cent of the quantities of treated waste at Pentakomo – the remainder (RDF) is still being buried at the basin.
Meantime the facility itself is borderline legitimate. Whereas it has secured a performance certificate from the government – having met all technical specifications – it has yet to acquire permits for industrial emissions for example.
Once a project is completed, it is granted a temporary certificate for a ‘defects and liability period’ that typically runs for 12 months, but could be extended to 18 months.
When the project is deemed to be fully compliant, it is issued a performance (or final) certificate of operation.
Also, under the tender documents for Pentakomo, the contractor was allowed to store the treatment by-products for up to two years.
In this case, storage is not the same as burial, because once the material is buried it cannot be dug up again, the same sources explained.
All in all, the situation is essentially stuck at square one. There has been talk of building an incinerator to dispose of the RDF by-product, but nothing is confirmed as of this time.
Complicating matters, it’s understood that the municipal authorities are reluctant to take custodianship of the facility while these loose ends persist. Once they do take over, they will be the ones dealing directly with the plant and paying for the disposal of the by-products.
During a discussion in parliament in April 2018, the mayor of Yermasoyia Kyriacos Xydias cited rumours that the Pentakomo facility could end up charging municipalities as much as €40 to €45 per tonne, depending on what arrangement was reached concerning the disposal of the SRF/RDF.
By comparison, the Koshi facility – which converts waste to compost – charges €36 per tonne. The Koshi plant serves the Larnaca and Famagusta districts.