Incinerator to discharge warm water off Qalet Marku bay area

Pipe will discharge water hotter than the sea to deeper waters not to endanger protected seagrasses

Photomontage from viewpoint 4, Coast Road
Photomontage from viewpoint 4, Coast Road

A new incinerator at Maghtab will require a 1-kilometre inlet pipe out at sea to avert the destruction of important marine habitats.

The pipe will discharge water from the cooling system of the incinerator at Maghtab, to be discharged just over 900m away at a depth of 22m. The cooling system will be sourced from a depth of 30 m, 1 km away from the shore.

Discussions with Enemalta will be essential since the pipes would traverse the Malta-Sicily interconnector cable, which could be prone to accidental damage during the pipe’s installation and cause disruption of Malta’s national electricity grid.

A marine ecology study by AIS concludes that the heated water from the incinerator will be discharged away from sensitive benthic habitats. AIS is owned by Mario Schembri, the CEO of Greenpak, a waste recovery cooperative.

The risk to seagrasses

The Maghtab incinerator will use a seawater cooling system sourced from, and discharged into the Qalet Marku bay area. The discharge pipe will pump out water which is 10°C warmer than the ambient water, which may have a detrimental effect on protected seagrasses.

Due to the sensitivity of seagrasses, the discharge point for warmer water had to be located as far away as possible from these “important ecological communities”.

A discharge point closer to the coastline was considered to minimise the seabed extent taken up by the pipe and its cost, but the potential impacts from warm-water discharge and accumulation at Qalet San Marku remain an issue of significant ecological concern.

The cooling pipes will be located underground through the terrestrial area and simply placed on the seabed for their marine extent. A pumping station, located close to the Coast Road, will be constructed for the operation of the cooling system.

photomontage from viewpoint 3, Coast Road
photomontage from viewpoint 3, Coast Road

Loss of agricultural land

The incinerator will take up nine fields of an area of about 34,000 square metres to the west of the Maghtab and Ghallis landfills. Until recently, the fields were tilled for cereal production, but the AIS study claims they were recently abandoned.

The proposed incinerator is expected to generate a total of 17.6MW of energy which is equivalent to approximately 4.5% of Malta’s energy demand. But the amount of energy produced is conditional on fluctuating waste types, quantities and recycling practices.

While the incineration of waste will “inevitably lead to the release of emissions into the air” the use of the latest abatement technology will ensure that pollutants are kept within acceptable limits.

Air pollution from the incinerator is expected to have a “minor adverse” impact but would still be “within acceptable limits.”

Massive visual impact

A major adverse impact in terms of the landscape and visual amenity will be generated by a tipping bunker and 70m stack chimney. A proposed canopy and adjacent soft-landscaping areas will provide additional screening to blend it with the surrounding rural environment.

The incinerator will process a variety of household and commercial waste, to generate electricity. The waste-to-energy plant consists of a tipping hall and fuel bunker where incoming waste will be stored; grate lines to burn the waste; and a flue gas treatment (FGT) system to treat the gaseous emissions before their release.

The facility will also incorporate an Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA) facility to treat the incineration waste. The storage process will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which should further help the facility reah Malta’s climate change targets. The IBA maturation area will be located elsewhere within Magħtab and a separate planning application process will be submitted for this purpose.

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