Malta incinerator problems

The management of clinical wastes in Malta has a long and troubled history. An old and heavily polluting hospital incinerator was used far past its use-by date, in direct contravention of EU rules and despite great pressure from EU to shut down what was considered as the most polluting incinerator installation in Europe. When that finally shut, under a barrage of political and public pressure, all clinical wastes went to landfill.

After much wrangling lasting many years and repeated claims of suspicious behaviour and wrong-doing in what should have been an open and fully transparent selection and bidding process a new incinerator was commissioned, inevitably using EU money!  Those interested in the history of this waste management problem, with particular reference to the management of clinical wastes, will find much information in the archive files of the Clinical Waste Discussion Forum.

Finally, all should have been well but it is reported that the incinerator is plagued with problems. The latest of these is reported in The Times of Malta. WasteServ, the incinerator operator, reported a blockage in the incinerator’s drains. It appeared, WasteServ said, that solid waste got into the system during the regular washing of the plant, despite the grates which stop such material. The grates around the facility are being strengthened to avoid a repetition. A private contractor unblocked the drain after a short while.

That alone sounds alarm bells. Was that untreated clinical wastes? How good are site operations, and are waste spillages prevented by design? What does the drain normally receive, and where do drain fluids go?

The brief news report carries some interesting commentary, though the full picture is not clear and most of the comments are of course unsubstantiated. Nonetheless, it does seem that Malta still suffers serious problems in safe and efficient waste management. In part no doubt due to the problems that beset an island community, waste management in Malta seems to be seriously polluting and those who bathe from the beautiful tourist beaches and dip their toes in the Mediterranean should beware pollution from inadequacies in pollution prevention for clinical and other wastes.

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