ReChem plans replacement incinerators at Pontypool

ReChem International has announced plans to replace its ageing static hearth incinerator at Pontypool in south Wales with a combined rotary kiln and static hearth unit. The company's application for the plant may have a rough ride if an imminent official report confirms last year's findings of PCB contamination around the works.

ReChem's announcement follows a warning by HM Inspectorate of Pollution (HMIP) in its last annual report that the existing Pontypool unit was "unlikely to meet the requirement imposed by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to use best available techniques." An application for authorisation under integrated pollution control (IPC) was due in from ReChem by 31 October.

A spokesman insisted that the decision to build a new incinerator had not come about because ReChem is "afraid of our IPC application failing. We have been speculating about putting in a rotary kiln for some time and have been looking at the market." In moving towards rotary kiln technology, ReChem is hoping to increase its share of the market for the disposal of solid wastes.

The new plant will cost £9 million. ReChem hopes to install it by September 1993. It will have a capacity of some 28,000 tonnes per year, similar to that of the existing unit. PCB transformers account for roughly 15% of current throughput, but this waste stream is likely to decline in the long term.

The design of the rotary kiln is similar to ReChem's other incinerator at Fawley. However, to allow the continued incineration of large objects such as transformers, the company wants to install a static hearth between the rotary kiln and the afterburner chamber. The two units will be capable of operating simultaneously.

The new incinerators will be built alongside the existing static hearth. The rotary kiln will be supplied by the German company MAN, while other equipment will be developed in-house. The existing gas clean-up system will then be reconnected to the new unit, and ReChem expects to lose only a few weeks of operation.

Because the development is on the same site as the existing unit, ReChem is confident that it can proceed without planning permission. Torfaen Borough Council has yet to come to a view.

ReChem's application to HMIP is expected to cover both the existing incinerator and the proposed new units. If accepted, this will mean that the company will not need to lodge a second application or request a variation notice when the new plants come on stream.

The statutory period for HMIP to determine the application is four months, though this will be extendable by agreement with ReChem. The decision could well be difficult because a study sponsored by the Welsh Office into PCB and dioxin contamination around the company's site is due to be completed in January. An interim report found "firm evidence" that airborne concentrations of PCBs in the locality had been increased by the incinerator, as well as elevated levels of PCBs in soil and grass close to the works (ENDS Report 201, pp 12-13).

It remains to be seen how HMIP will respond to these and the final report's findings, but it has already ordered improvements to the plant. Earlier this year, ReChem was told to install a third electrostatic precipitator and improve the containment of its waste loading and deashing operations (ENDS Report 208, p 14 ). The precipitator has now been installed and will form part of the gas cleaning chain for the new units.

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