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Bermuda in ‘desperate’ need of replacement incinerator

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The Tynes Bay waste-to-energy incinerator on North Shore (File photograph by Akil Simmons)
Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office and acting Minister of Public Works (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A “major capital development” is needed to refurbish the ageing Tynes Bay incinerator, the acting public works minister said this week.

Wayne Furbert warned: “The choice is simple – we can either invest $150 million to make significant upgrades to the plant or resort to dumping garbage in a landfill.

“The latter is a step backwards and I know that it cannot be allowed to become our fate.”

Mr Furbert said the waste-to-energy plant was more than 25 years old and that a feasibility study carried out in 2018 showed that more than $30 million worth of “critical systems” would fail and need replacement between 2019 and 2022.

Mr Furbert claimed that these included machinery that “should have formed part of a planned and continued upgrade in fiscal year 2013-14” when the now Opposition One Bermuda Alliance was in power.

The minister said that maintenance costs related to boiler leak repairs averaged $22,000 in 2018 and 2019 but soared to $94,000 last year.

He added: “These were for one or two repairs per year.

“However, in stark contrast to the previous three years, as of October 31, 2021, there have been eight boiler leak repairs, the November repair estimate is $110,000, and December remains unknown.

“Presently, the total repair estimate for 2021 is over $536,000, and once again, more than a fivefold increase on the previous year.

“It is essential to note that these costs do not account for the revenue lost when the units are not producing electricity, estimated at $20,000 per day.”

Mr Furbert said that a boiler in the plant’s Unit 1 had repairs in September and October but suffered another leak last Saturday.

A leak developed in Unit 2 on Sunday.

Mr Furbert, acting in the public works role while Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch is off work, said: “Both units will need to come offline to prevent further damage, but we must balance our need to manage the island's garbage with how we effect repairs.

“Two teams of welders will be deployed from Germany to address the leaks and both boilers will be shut down.

“It is clear that Bermuda is in dire and desperate need of a new facility.

“The Ministry’s immediate strategy is to work towards ensuring the system remains operational.”

Mr Furbert added: “As we move into 2022, the plan is to invest an additional $7.5 million into stabilising the plant.

“This solution is short term and is estimated to last for three to four years.

“This will provide the ministry, working with other stakeholders, the time to develop the business case necessary to support the funding proposals for such a major capital development, source the best model for the replacement plant and conduct the appropriate change in operations to provide seamless waste disposal for the people of Bermuda.”

Mr Furbert said: “Tynes Bay has gone beyond its life cycle and it’s about to give up.

“If we do not take the necessary steps now, we will have no other choice but to build up trash around the island.

“This is not the quality of life or environmental impact the Government wants.”

He added that a cross-ministry team had been set up to “accelerate the replacement of critical assets and components” at Tynes Bay as a stopgap.

The team was announced in the recent Throne Speech.

Mr Furbert added that the goal was to have a refurbished incinerator inside three to four years and to find “creative” ways to fund the improvements.

He explained: “We envision long-term funding from the combined Tynes Bay and water and wastewater infrastructure currently under way, forming part of a new waste and water utility.

“This project will see the Tynes Bay Waste to Energy facility repurposed as a central energy hub for the waste water infrastructure, forming a combined waste and water recovery utility that will attract investment partners.

“Essentially, this new utility will produce fresh water from garbage and sewage, using the Tynes Bay plant to power water production and sewage treatment processes within the same facility.”

Mr Furbert added later that $46 million already spent on the Tynes Bay expansion included plant refurbishments, the installation of new equipment and ash plant upgrades.

Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, admitted that replacement or refurbishment of Tynes Bay would “involve a sizeable financing requirement”.

He said: “In addition, we recognise there is an imminent need to take action and that Tynes Bay forms part of an even larger water and wastewater master plan, which requires an even greater level of financing.

“Consequently, and in parallel with the work being carried out to assess options for the physical infrastructure, we are assessing potential financing structures that must form part of an overall business plan that is financially prudent.”

Mr Dickinson added: “As there are real risks of potential failures at Tynes Bay, not to mention mounting maintenance and repair costs, we will work diligently to execute on the most optimal plan for the long term, which will balance securing the country’s infrastructure requirements with continued financial prudence.

“We look forward to working together to address all of these issues, which in our view are important to the health and wellbeing of our community.”

* To read Minister Furbert’s remarks in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.

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Published November 12, 2021 at 7:58 am (Updated November 12, 2021 at 7:59 am)

Bermuda in ‘desperate’ need of replacement incinerator

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