UPDATE, July 17: Covanta's new Dublin waste-to-energy facility is officially back on track after about a month of delays related to the June 7 lime release incident. Following an investigation by Ireland's Environmental Protection Agency that confirmed an incorrectly installed door gasket as the cause — and verified no threat to public health — the facility was allowed to resume testing and commissioning on July 7. Waste processing resumed on July 14, according to Covanta's website, and further updates have been promised as testing continues.
UPDATE, June 20: The Dublin City Council recently voted to pass multiple motions in reaction to the June 7 lime incident at Covanta's local facility, including requests for a full safety audit and a report on the company's public response, as reported by The Irish Times. Multiple members expressed what they said were renewed concerns about the facility and also requested real-time emissions data, as reported by TheJournal.ie. Covanta currently publishes boiler temperature data as required by its operating license.
All workers were released from the hospital shortly after being admitted and multiple government investigations continue. Last week, Covanta confirmed that a licensed third-party had completed clean-up of the site and only general construction activity would be continuing in the near term.
Covanta said that both it and construction company Hitachi Zosen Inova were cooperating with authorities and had found the cause of the lime leak. "After investigation, it has been determined that a gasket was installed incorrectly on doors leading to the fabric filter baghouse. This led to the release of lime-ash through a small opening in the door seals which was contained inside the flue gas treatment area," read a June 13 statement, which confirmed no risk to public health. "Covanta is committed to carry out any steps necessary that will demonstrate to the public and the appropriate authorities that the facility is safe. We are actively working to prevent an incident like this from occurring again."
- An incident at Covanta's new Dublin waste-to-energy facility on the night of June 7 sent 11 workers to a local hospital for treatment. Nine of them were released within hours and two stayed overnight, as reported by the Irish Times and other outlets.
- The incident occurred while workers were dismantling scaffolding and a cloud of lime was released in the flue gas treatment area. About 30 workers were in the area and those that were most exposed reported nausea and blurred vision.
- Covanta said preliminary investigation identified a breached door seal in the fabric filter baghouse. "The safety of our employees and contractors is of utmost importance to Covanta and we are investigating the incident thoroughly," the company said in a statement.
The new Dublin facility is currently being commissioned and a combustion unit that was active during the incident was shut down as a precaution. Covanta said it is cooperating with Ireland's Health and Safety Authority and Environmental Protection Agency and confirmed that no lime was released into the surrounding environment.
The leader of Ireland's Green Party was quick to cite the incident as a sign of the dangers of WTE, though similar exposure incidents are not uncommon in other areas of the industry. Last year in the U.S., workers were exposed to airborne chemicals on multiple occasions at transfer stations and during collection. These examples were caused by surprises in the waste stream — a concept which Covanta is well-acquainted with after multiple recent fires — whereas the Dublin incident appears related to an internal design issue.
This facility is one of multiple new projects driving Covanta's overseas growth. The Dublin operation recently began receiving its first waste deliveries this spring and is said to be on track for full-scale operation by the end of the year. At that point the facility will be capable of processing more than 1,800 tons of waste per day and generating up to 61 MW of energy.