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Toxic gas levels in air minimal following Sant’Antnin recycling plant fire

Air quality tests show legal levels of noxious gases, tests on burnt material show small quantity of residual hazardous chemicals

Massimo Costa
7 November 2017, 1:35pm
Air quality tests undertaken a few weeks after the fire showed minimal, legal levels of toxic gas present
Air quality tests undertaken a few weeks after the fire showed minimal, legal levels of toxic gas present
The levels of potentially toxic gas, as tested a few weeks after the Sant’Antnin waste treatment plant fire, were found to be minimal and within the legal parameters, a report has found. The fire had led to the destruction of a waste sorting shed.,

This information emerged in response to a parliamentary question, posed yesterday to environment minister Jose Herrera, who laid on the table a 54-page scientific report detailing the results of testing done on burnt waste from the plant, undergone by an Italian laboratory.

A note, by Industrial and Environmental Chemist Robert Cortis explained that air quality monitory tests within the Sant’Antnin building, and next to the burnt shed, had been undertaken a few weeks after the fire, and did not show any significant levels of toxic gases. This result was expected, given that there was no major active generating source - in this case, fire.

Cortis said that a number of weeks after this test, he also carried out a bulk analysis of nine samples of residual burnt material. The number was determined following the standard methodology of taking into consideration the volume of material present and ensuring proportional representation.

The results showed that residual hazardous chemicals were present in relatively small amounts. This was so because a small quantity of chemicals generated in the fire are absorbed into the residual solid bulk material, and are not released as gas. Such material cannot be released into the air unless it is burnt again.

The material burnt in the fire was paper and plastic, Cortis said, and because of its composition it was classified as being non-hazardous Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF). He added that paper and plastic burn easily to release energy, and, if controlled, this can be used to generate power without harming the enviroment                  .

However, if burnt in an uncontrolled environment, such as during the fire, hazardous gases are released. The risk of exposure to humans existed at the point that the fire was ongoing, as the wind could disperse the gases.

Massimo Costa joined MaltaToday in 2017 as a journalist. He is a graduate in European Stud...
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