Row intensifies over incinerator repair work
A bust-up over the state of the Tynes Bay incinerator heated up yesterday as the Government was accused of failure to act on promises of investment in the plant that dated back decades.
A major announcement by Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the public works minister, resurfaced from 2017 where he promised action, as the war of words between the Government and the Opposition rumbled on.
Colonel Burch told MPs just after the Progressive Labour Party swept back to power: “There is a need to make an ultimate decision on the future of the Tynes Bay waste to energy facility for the construction of a third stream or a further refurbishment, either of which will need to take place within the next three years in order for the plant to remain reliable.
“We are commissioning a study to do an analysis of timelines, options, and, of course, cost to explore which is more beneficial in the long term.
“The costs are significant for either option, along with the likely requirement for extensive space for baled garbage for an extended period during construction.”
Colonel Burch’s announcement followed a 2001 warning by the late Eugene Cox, then the finance minister, that a new fund would be needed to pay for major work at Tynes Bay.
Mr Cox told MPs at the time: “In the near future, it will be necessary to start building a fund to replace the incinerator – whose remaining useful life is fairly short.''
The news came as Wayne Furbert, the acting public works minister, confirmed that landfill operations would end after a successful test of a repaired Tynes Bay burner at the weekend.
The burner is working at near-normal efficiency – a burn rate of about 150 tonnes of garbage a day.
A broken baler, repaired last week, is processing about 105 tonnes a day in an effort to ensure that the tipping hall had enough space for more deliveries of trash.
But Mr Furbert said: “To be clear, we are not out of the woods yet. There is constant monitoring taking place to extend the life of the current infrastructure at Tynes Bay while work is ongoing on a more long term solution.”
He added it was hoped the second burner would be back in operation “in the coming weeks” and that an update would be released over the next few days.
Craig Cannonier, a former One Bermuda Alliance premier and later public works minister, told the Government to "get the job done“.
He insisted the incinerator was a concern when the OBA was in power from 2012 to 2017.
Mr Cannonier, the Shadow Minister of Works and Engineering, claimed that the PLP administration could not “concentrate on the task at hand”.
He added: “No one is going to push back on money that is sorely needed for the incinerator at Tynes Bay. No one will push back in the Opposition.
“When I was the minister, there were several times that monies in the millions were needed to invest in the incinerator and it was done.”
Mr Cannonier said: “It’s typical of this current PLP government that every time there’s a challenge that they’re facing, and almost as if they still can’t figure out a solution, it always winds up having to be the OBA’s problem or the OBA created the challenge or the problem.”
He added: “In 2012 when we became Government … we had no money.
“This Government is wasting time, wasting paper, wasting money on trying to put blame on someone else for its challenges.”
Mr Furbert said last week: “The challenges at the Tynes Bay waste facility are in large part due to the significant and woeful lack of investment and management by the previous administration.”
The “critical” state of the plant was highlighted in November when the House of Assembly heard that broken machinery – compounded by problems caused by Covid-19 and supply chain difficulties – meant that trash would be taken to Marsh Folly in Pembroke for landfill.
Work to stabilise the plant is expected to cost up to $10 million but Mr Furbert warned that full replacement would cost close to $150 million.
Mr Furbert said earlier that Tynes Bay management asked in June 2012 for estimates to build a third waste burning unit and it was expected to cost about $95 million.
The OBA took over the reins of power in December that year.
Mr Furbert claimed that tackling the plant’s problems “took a distant second place to the America’s Cup”.
But Mr Cannonier, who was Premier from December 2012 to May 2014 and public works minister from January 2015 until July 2017, insisted last Friday that the incinerator was “always a priority” and had often come up in Cabinet meetings.
Mr Cannonier said: “I can remember just several months into our tenure the finance minister was coming to me and saying ‘we don’t have any money’.
“Yet we continued on to find creative ways to get things done.”
Mr Cannonier added he could not remember how much money was spent on Tynes Bay during the OBA’s time in charge.
But he said: “I remember quite clearly having to sign off on several different things for the incinerator to keep it going and to improve on its efficiency.
“It was not cheap at all.”
He added that redevelopment of the incinerator was a prime candidate for a public-private partnership deal.
Marcus Jones, an OBA senator, said last month that the OBA spent $12 million on new equipment in 2014-15 for Tynes Bay and doubled its electricity output.
He told the Upper House: “The idea that the entire facility has to be replaced six years on rings hollow.”