Waterbeach MBT ‘unlikely’ to reopen before 2014

Waste management company AmeyCespa has announced that its mechanical biological treatment (MBT) facility at Waterbeach, which broke down on the 18 September 2012, is ‘unlikely’ to be back in working order again before December 2013.

The company has not yet finished their analysis of the malfunction and stated that due to the ‘complexity and size of the equipment and the nature of the failure’ their investigation has taken longer than expected.

The MBT process uses technology to collect recyclable materials from residual 'black bag' rubbish. The remaining non-recyclable material is then processed in a composting hall for seven weeks (reducing its mass by half), following which the leftover waste is deposited in landfill.

Waterbeach MBT

In a written statement, AmeyCespa said: ‘This type of equipment is highly specialist and requires bespoke design and manufacture for AmeyCespa’s Waterbeach facility. The time required to undertake the procurement, design, manufacture and installation phases of new equipment will mean that commissioning is unlikely to start until December 2013.’

The Waterbeach facility had been in operation since November 2009, processing around 112,000 tonnes of Cambridgeshire’s black bag waste a year but broke down in September 2012, meaning that all residual waste has since been sent to landfill.

The breakage occurred in one of the two ‘lines’ of machinery used to turn the non-recyclable waste extracted from the black bag waste for seven weeks as it composted.

‘We now anticipate that works will be required to replace the turning equipment on both lines’, AmeyCespa stated.

The 28-year PFI contract Cambridgeshire County Council signed with Donarbon (owned by AmeyCespa) means that the waste management company, rather than the taxpayer, will pick up the cost of landfill tax.

AmeyCespa continued: ‘We would like to stress that residents should continue to recycle as much as possible through their normal district council collection scheme which will all continue to be collected in the usual way.’

Construction company, BAM Nutall, who installed the Kelag Holding AG’s equipment at the Waterbeach plant is now the subject of legal claims.

Council criticised

Speaking to Resource, Liberal Democrat opposition spokesperson Kevin Wilkins criticised the Conservative Council’s lack of an alternative plan for dealing with the area’s residual waste.

Cllr Kevin Wilkins“The County Council has been silent on an alternative to landfill. They have had four months since the plant stopped working to come up with a plan B to hundreds of tonnes of waste going to landfill unnecessarily; they were challenged in public on this last year and they still seem to have no plans whatsoever. Last month the lead Councillor said (on BBC Radio Cambs) that he had no idea when a plan B might come forward.

“In the absence of a plan B, it looks like the black bin waste will go to landfill until December or whenever the plant is finally fixed and working again. That is completely unacceptable and the Conservatives running the Council must do something about it.

“In my experience, people are concerned about two things: they are cross about all this waste going to landfill unnecessarily and weary that yet another expensive Conservative County Council project has gone badly wrong.”

Lib dems in libel mix-up

The Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) have been vociferous in their criticism of the council and the construction company that installed the equipment, but have themselves landed in hot water after they distributed a leaflet in the Castle area of Cambridge, wrongly suggesting that Balfour Beatty was responsible for the breakdown of the £42 million Waterbeach plant.

According to the Cambridge News, the leaflet read: ‘The Lib Dem opposition queried some aspects of the contract that was given to Balfour Beatty to install the guided busway – which continues to put county taxpayers’ money at risk.

‘The same company was then given the job of installing a recycling machine for the county…The wheel of the machine came off – literally – meaning much of our recycling is going to landfill.’

Balfour Beatty had not been associated with either projects, which were under the management of BAM Nuttall.

The Lib Dems have since halted distribution of the leaflet, and have blamed the mistake on an error made by a new member of staff. The Conservatives have warned that the opposition could now be subject to legal action due to libel.