Roadworks stopped after Infrastructure Malta claims no space left for waste disposal

Infrastructure Malta stops roadworks over lack of waste disposal options but industry source insists government is refusing to pay market prices

Roadworks all over Malta and Gozo have been stopped with immediate effect by Infrastructure Malta, due to lack of dumping sites for construction waste.

The letter from CEO Frederick Azzopardi to contractors, seen by MaltaToday, was sent on 24 April to all contractors carrying out roadworks for the agency. “This order for suspension is being effected… due to lack of availability in dumping sites for the disposal of construction and demolition waste, including dredged material, thus impinging on the sensible management and efficient running of works.”

However, MaltaToday is informed that Malta still has a supply of quarries and voids, but which not all are taking in construction waste. This has pushed landfilling prices up.

“There are many readily-available quarries to take in construction waste, but they are not ready to landfill it at just any price,” an industry source told MaltaToday.

The same source claims that roadworks contractors are usually the owners of their own quarries, who however refuse to landfill in their own quarries at the prices they dictate. “There is no time-frame for them to landfill their quarry. Owners want to exploit this resource for as long as they want.”

Government had once mooted the possibility of expropriating quarries to solve the issue of construction waste, but this would cost millions.

Azzopardi put the onus of the decision on the Environment and Resource Authority, saying that the suspension would stay in place until it makes necessary provisions for the disposal of such construction, demolition and dredged material.

But in a rebuttal from the ERA, the regulator said ther are 31 quarries permitted to accept construction waste, six of which for recycling construction waste only.

“The ERA took stock of the quarries in Malta and Gozo in November 2019 where it emerged that there are a number of disused quarries that may be restored. The authority gives precedence to the infilling of disused quarries, whereby sea dredged material is permitted to be dumped at sea at the official spoil ground off Valletta Harbour.

“The ERA expects all applicants and contractors to seek proper waste management facilities prior to commencement of works that are known to generate any quantities of construction waste.”

The ERA said it cannot fulfil the obligations of operative entities, whether public or private, in their course of contractual obligations with third parties. “The ERA has always been available to facilitate negotiations between contractors and quarry operators, however it is the responsibility of the entity generating the waste to secure proper waste disposal in line with sustainable environmental goals.”

The ERA said it will introducing regulatory measures to bring in line the quarrying sector, which for the past years has been largely unregulated.

The construction industry is struggling to find spaces where to dump waste and debris, in an ongoing saga that has now seen another landfilling quarry close down. 

The Qrendi quarry had been used for the disposal of construction and landfill waste. But a stop-and-compliance order was issued by the Environment and Resources Authority in November 2019 after finding that the disposal of inert waste in the quarry’s upper area, right outside the quarry void itself, was not covered by a permit. Action was also taken by the Planning Authority. 

The ERA says an alternative landfill is being sought for national waste agency Wasteserv in Siggiewi, which possesses a valid environmental permit, but not for the industry itself.

But despite the alternative quarry, dumping illegalities are still widespread according to industry sources. 

Photos received by MaltaToday show government land in Hal Far being used for illegal dumping of construction waste. 

The ERA has denied issuing any permits for this land. “ERA enforcement officers will be investigating the site further and action will be taken as deemed necessary,” ERA said. The environment authority also said that the site has been prone to illegal dumping for years. “ERA has carried out a number of actions including the issuing of Stop and Compliance Orders in the Industrial Area,” it said.  

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