Business booming for batching plants, yet few have environmental permits

Demand for tarmac in Malta is increasing due to infrastructural projects. But only five out of scores of Maltese batching plants are covered by an environmental permit

13 pending applications involving quarries equipped with concrete mixing plants are currently pending
13 pending applications involving quarries equipped with concrete mixing plants are currently pending

Just five out of the scores of batching plants operating in Malta are currently covered by an environmental permit to regulate waste management, airborne emissions, storage, effluent discharge and emissions to land.

Industry sources have confirmed that demand for tarmac in Malta is increasing due to ongoing infrastructural projects, which is also leading to an increase in production volumes within these plants.

But in the absence of environmental precautions, batching plants are known to be a major source of dust emissions in the air.

And the sector remains largely unregulated from an environmental point of view.  One main reason is that there is currently no legal obligations for batching plants to apply for an environmental permit.

“There is no specific legal obligation under environmental law for an environmental permit when it comes to concrete/batching plants,” a spokesperson for the Environment and Resources Authority, which is responsible for the issue of environmental permits, told MaltaToday.

But concrete mixing plants, which form part of quarries, are included in the environmental permits issued for the quarry operations.

“Quarries that include concrete/batching plants as part of their operations are included in the environmental permit for the quarry,” the spokesperson said.

The ERA was not even in a position to provide a total number of plants currently operating in Malta and Gozo.

The five concrete plants covered by an environmental permit are: Ballut Blocks in Naxxar, R.A. & Sons Manufacturing in Xewkija, the Ta’ Zuta quarry plant in Dingli, the Labour Avenue quarry plant in Naxxar and General Precast Concrete in Birzebbugia.

13 pending applications involving quarries equipped with concrete mixing plants are currently pending.

Conditions in these permits oblige operators to take all the necessary measures to abate emissions such as air filters and suppressers if necessary. The operator is also to provide the ERA with all maintenance records and changes of equipment.

If there is cause, the ERA may, at any time, request the operator to undertake stack emissions or any other tests that may be required.

All concrete batching plant and hot/cold asphalt plant equipment is to be installed and operated in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, so as to minimise the release of dust, volatile organic compounds and other gaseous products to air, land and water.

The 13 pending applications for environmental permits for batching plants involve facilities located in quarries in Siggiewi, Naxxar, Mqabba, Lija, Ghajnsielem, Xewkija, Zebbug, Birzebbugia and Ta’ Qali.

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